The DRW is a potentially innovative approach to treatment for prisoners who misuse drugs (or alcohol) and is focused on abstinence, freedom from drugs of dependence, provision of services and advice in a central location, formal peer support, and connecting offenders with community treatment services on release. The evolving approach – which involves provision of dedicated prison wing accommodation – provides a facility that aims to: be free from illicit drugs; promote recovery-focused interventions and support for offenders who misuse drugs; and be entered on a voluntary basis by offenders who have the goal to be drug free. The DRWs are expected to place a strong emphasis on connecting offenders with a wide range of community services to help them to live drug-free lives on release.
An initial tranche of DRW pilot schemes was launched in June 2011 in five prisons (Bristol, Brixton, High Down, Holme House, and Manchester) and will run for at least 18 months. A second tranche of up to six pilot DRWs will be launched in April 2012. The pilot sites have been given the flexibility to design DRW models appropriate to their context and offender population.
The DH is commissioning an evaluation team to investigate the success of the DRW pilots. Ultimately the evaluation of the DRW pilots should assess whether, how (i.e. the contribution of the different elements in the DRW and their combination) and to what extent the DRW approach can successfully initiate and support the sustained recovery of offenders from drug dependence, lead to their successful re-integration into their communities and reduce re-offending. The DRW pilots will also be examined for their cost-effectiveness and their impacts on the wider system of drug treatment for offenders.
DH has commissioned PIRU to undertake some early scoping and feasibility work on approaches to evaluation, and potential outcome measures, which could be used to inform the planned evaluation.
PIRU's scoping and feasibility work involved visits to ten of the DRW pilot sites, interviews with key informants from these sites and a review of the draft models of recovery prepared by each pilot. PIRU wrote two notes of advice for the Department of Health providing descriptions of how the DRW pilots have been operationalised at the local level and the implications of local variations for the evaluation.