Prison drug rehab is making big difference

MCHG 12-783  Nick Messich at The Mount prison, Bovingdon.
MCHG 12-783 Nick Messich at The Mount prison, Bovingdon.

A former heroin user who spent much of his life in and out of jail now helps inmates at Bovingdon’s prison get off drugs and make a fresh start.

The programme, led by Nick Messikh from rehab charity RAPt at The Mount, was recently given celebrity backing by comedian Russell Brand.

And the famous former drug user, who now campaigns to make abstinence-based rehabilitation more widely available, is not the only one to sit up and take notice of the scheme’s successes.

Figures show that 69 per cent of inmates who complete the RAPt programme do not re-offend or relapse within the first two years of release.

Nick, 48, who himself rebuilt his life after completing a course with RAPt while in Wandsworth Prison, said: “The guys we work with have committed – some of them – horrendous offences, and they have broken the law of the land and therefore they have to be taken out of the community. However, while they are here, if we don’t try to do anything with them all we are going to do is release the problem.”

The charity has just been awarded a new three-year contract at the category C prison and secured funding from Herts County Council to launch a programme targeting alcohol abuse.

The drug scheme, which sees participating inmates moved onto a dedicated RAPt wing of 60 cells, lasts six months.

“We will hold a mirror up and they will see themselves and the reality of their situation probably for the first time ever,” said Nick, who credits RAPt with saving his life after years of being ‘entrenched’ in offending and addiction.

The former public schoolboy has met people from all walks of life who are addicted to all kinds of drugs from heroin to cannabis. “It is not substance specific,” he said.

“We get a lot of Class A users but also alcohol and cannabis. We are finding the clientele is getting younger and younger. I don’t think it matters what the substance is.”

Nick believes addiction is a disease rather than a choice users make. “I have met such a cross-section of society. It doesn’t discriminate,” he said.

Brand visited the prison to speak to Nick and inmates as part of a BBC3 documentary called Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery.

Nick said: “The whole point was to highlight what is going on at The Mount.”

Find out more about RAPt at www.rapt.org.uk