If this recommendation were implemented, the local Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies would remain as voluntary bodies, advising and assisting the local After-Care Officer, but it would be up to a Director of After-Care at the Home Office to co-ordinate and extend their work. The Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies would cease to be responsible for providing pocket money over and above the official issue.
The Director of After-Care would have funds and authority to establish certain experiments in suitable areas, e.g. a short-term hostel for N.F.A.'s, a treatment centre for alcoholics, etc.
On the question of alcoholics the Pakenham-Thompson Committee Report makes some telling points. The number of chronic established cases of alcoholics in the British Isles this year is estimated to he 86.000. There are believed to be a further 344.000 in the early stages of the condition.
The Home Office is only directly concerned with (a) Alcoholics who have been found insane on arraignment or guilty but insane by a jury. (b) Prisoners whose insanity, due to alcohol, has been declared while the alcoholic is serving a sentence of imprisonment.
There is no provision in the National Health Service for alcoholics as stich.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the biggest single organisation attempting to cure alcoholism. But their methods are psychological and are more effective with the more intellectual of their patients (distressed by their condition and urgently desiring a cure) than with people of less intelligence. They are doubtful of their power to help the seven day drunks — the main alcoholic problem so far as local prisons are concerned.
" When a man is picked up as a drunk," says the Report, " he spends a night in the cells. The following day he comes up before a magistrate probably pleads guilty and is duly sentenced. There should be an alternative action open to the magistrate (the existing alternative of a fine is no help to the regular drunk who can never WY).
"The magistrate, if satisfied that the accused is an habitual offender, should be able to send him to a treatment centre in lieu of prison on condition that he stays under treatment as long as the doctor recommends and carries out the treatment to the doctor's satisfaction."
The cost of implementing this recommendation, says the Report, "must be balanced against the cost of prison on the one hand and the cost of the National Assistance Board of providing money for food and accommodation on the other ".
"The Mental Health Act of 1959 imposed on Local Authorities the duty of providing rehabilitation hostels for patients discharged from mental hospitals. It might be possible to extend this duty to include the provision of at least one hostel for alcoholics in each county."
Lord Paxenham told the CATHOLIC HERALD that there was great scope for Catholic initiative on the problem of treatment for alcoholics as outlined in the Report.
The Report has gone to the Home Secretary, Mr. R. A. Butler.