Supporting Change in Custody #PrisonsWeek

#PrisonsWeek is an opportunity to reflect on the work that has been carried out by the staff in our AD:EPT service, who have been working throughout the pandemic in the three prisons in N. Ireland. AD:EPT is a therapeutic service funded by the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust. The service supports individuals in custody who have issues with drugs and/or alcohol.

The following is an account of AD:EPT work with one individual prisoner and a journey of change.

Thomas (not his real name) had been in and out of prison since he was 16. As a teenager he had begun to use and sell drugs, which resulted in him coming into contact with the police and the criminal justice system.

By the time he was 21 he had been convicted a number of times for possession, intent to supply and assault on police and had served several short prison sentences. At 22 he was found guilty of a serious robbery involving a high level of violence and received and extended prison sentence. It was at the beginning of this sentence that he started working with AD:EPT.

Thomas completed his initial assessment with AD:EPT, which showed that he was struggling with an opioid dependency, was taking part in no purposeful activity and was struggling with his mental health. He agreed to a referral to the Clinical Addictions Team and to work with AD:EPT.

At his first AD:EPT casework session Thomas was presented with a series of strategies designed to assist him in addressing his substance use. Thomas struggled to engage with the strategies and seemed reluctant to address his drug use, citing his current levels of stress and worry as his reasons for wishing to continue to use.

At his next session his caseworker decided to take a more conversational approach with him. They spoke about his family, his children, his initial experiences with various substances and the things he used to enjoy before he started using substances. At the end of this session Thomas had identified his family and his children as sources of motivation and agreed to a small goal for the coming week involving the reduction of his substance use

Throughout the remainder of his sessions with AD:EPT, Thomas continued to reduce his drug use and started to engage in a range of other purposeful activities within the prison. His caseworker was able to advocate on his behalf to the Clinical Addictions Team who, at the conclusion of his casework with AD:EPT, agreed to take him on as a client. Thomas was also encouraged to engage with his mental-health worker and was referred for further counselling, which he attended.

Thomas continues to be supervised by the Clinical Addiction Team and he is receiving an opioid substitution prescription. He has access to an AD:EPT worker for additional psycho-social support. He is continuing with his counselling, has begun taking part in educational activities and is now classified as an enhanced prisoner by the prison. This is a reflection of the progress he has made over the past year.

For more information on our AD:EPT service please click here.