COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: DrugScope puts prison terms under spotlight

DrugScope is expanding beyond its traditional role of providing drug support services with its first major campaigning initiative to highlight the futility of tough prison sentences for female drug offenders.

Through the 'Using Women' campaign, DrugScope argues that tough prison sentences do nothing to break the cycle of abuse, drugs and crime that many women in jail find themselves trapped in.

It is calling on charities and voluntary organisations to help raise awareness that imprisonment isn't working. The charity wants to promote an alternative policy of community penalties to help address the underlying issues of mental illness, drugs, or long-term effects of abuse and exclusion that lead many women to commit drugs-related crimes.

"One of the main thrusts of the campaign is to give a voice to those women who aren't getting the proper help and assistance they need to change their lives," said Frank Warburton, acting chief executive of DrugScope.

"At a practical level it's crucial that we get the help of the sector, because we don't just want to quote statistics. We want to assemble a series of case studies from different sources to show the extent of the problem."

DrugScope is hoping that support from other drugs agencies, women's groups and penal reform charities will strengthen the impact of the campaign.

Traditionally known for its drugs support services, 'Using Women' is the first major campaigning initiative that DrugScope has launched. The charity hopes that its success in working with local communities will allow it to campaign on behalf of people whose lives or families are destroyed by drugs.

"I see this campaign as the start of us beginning to realise the full potential of our organisation," said Warburton.

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