IF the Government's sentencing reforms are to remain credible, and lead to a reduction in the number of prison places, then Ministers have to get to win the war on drugs. For too long, this vital policy has been undermined by mixed messages since Tony Blair's government parted company with Keith Hellawell, the former chief constable of West Yorkshire who was this country's first drugs tsar.
Yet, just as the coalition is being pragmatic over welfare reform, and ensuring that work pays, it appears that the Government intends to apply the same approach to drugs and deny benefits to those drug addicts who refuse treatment. This is an important policy shift that could, potentially, have far-reaching consequences for society.
For, given that most crimes are committed to fuel the perpetrator's drugs habit, this is another important step to signify that individuals are responsible for their own actions and should meet certain criteria, whether it be employment training or treatment programmes, before they receive their benefits. The alternative is allowing a self-defeating cycle of crime, and drug-dependency, to continue unabated.