Newsweek offers a compelling article stating that “Treatment for drug addiction works better and costs less than imprisonment alone. So why are states abandoning it?”
“Of the 2.3 million inmates in the U.S., more than half have a history of substance abuse and addiction. Not all those inmates are imprisoned on drug-related charges (although drug arrests have been rising steadily since the early 1990s; there were 195,700 arrests in 2007). But in many cases, their crimes, such as burglary, have been committed in the service of feeding their addictions. Rich, a professor of medicine and community health at Brown University, is worried that, by refusing or neglecting to provide treatment to these addicts, many U.S. prisons are missing the best chance to cure them—and in the process to cut down on future crime. Treatment can reduce recidivism rates from 50 percent to something more like 20 percent, according to the DEA. Yet it is not widely provided. “
The staff at Crime in America.Net has been asking the same question for the past year, see http://crimeinamerica.net/category/drug-treatment/. As a result of declining budgets, treatment programs have suffered along with incarceration rates, see http://crimeinamerica.net/category/budgetimpact/.
Virtually all states are undergoing tremendous fiscal difficulties. From a recent article in “Stateline”: “Corrections was an easy target for lawmakers, but prison officials and others worry that some cuts could be counterproductive. For instance, Kansas slashed funding for a nationally recognized program aimed at helping ex-offenders stay out of trouble. Illinois and Oregon stopped early-release programs amid concerns over public safety. ” See http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=495106.
The bottom-line is that states are cutting police officers, parole and probation agents and are shutting down prisons. It was inevitable that treatment programs would be affected.
But note that fiscal issues in the states is not the real issue because even in the best of times, only a small percentage of prison inmates and offenders on parole and probation get drug treatment or programs of any kind. Why?
Politicians and the public need to prioritize spending and while we are sympathetic towards programs for children or the elderly or the unemployed, there is little empathy for people perceived to do society harm.
Data states that most people with drug problems don’t see a need to enter treatment. The track record for massive drug interventions (California’s Proposition 36) as to participation and completion is not impressive.
Plenty of people who get drug treatment continue their criminality. Offenders often need several tries at treatment before it becomes effective. The endless humdrum of negative news regarding offenders doesn’t help.
But the bulk of evidence “is” clear; drug treatment works to reduce recidivism (re-offending) and does save taxpayers money. But how that message is presented to the public will make the difference between sufficient programs and no programs.
Crime in America.Net