Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Columbia Study: Almost All Prisoners Could Use Drug Treatment; Almost None Get It

with 4 comments

Some 85% of American prisoners meet the diagnostic requirements for drug or alcohol addiction, have a history of substance abuse, or committed their crime under the influence and/or to pay for drugs; yet just 11% get any form of treatment while behind bars. These are the sobering statistics (pardon the pun) announced today by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. And there’s more:

The report found that if all inmates who needed treatment and aftercare received such services, the nation would break even in a year if just over 10 percent remained substance and crime free and employed. Thereafter, for each inmate who remained sober, employed and crime free the nation would reap an economic benefit of $90,953 per year.

“States complain mightily about their rising prison costs; yet they continue to hemorrhage public funds that could be saved if they provided treatment to inmates with alcohol and other drug problems and stepped up use of drug courts and prosecutorial drug treatment alternative programs,” said Susan E. Foster, CASA’s Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis. (h/t: The Crime Report)

Now, in my ideal world you wouldn’t have to get convicted of a crime in order to get drug or alcohol treatment. But if the choices are jail/prison with no drug treatment vs. jail/prison with drug treatment, these numbers seem to make a case for the latter. (Admittedly, I’m not familiar enough with the science on substance abuse to know if 10% is a conservative, realistic, or optimistic estimate of the percentage of inmates who, with treatment, wouldn’t relapse. Readers, any thoughts?) Also, even in my imagined utopia of enlightened harm reduction policies and methadone for all, there would still be a place in prison for drug treatment, because presumably you’d still have violent offenders being sent to prison, and presumably some of them would have addiction issues. All the more distressing that in states like California, prison rehab programs are being scaled back for lack of funding.

4 Responses

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  1. The funding priorities for corrections are funding for guards is first with research or reentry services usually in last place. It depends on the state how the other services are prioritized but if educational and treatment programs are provided by contractors they will be cut before a service provided by regular staff.

    The data used to assess alcohol/drug abuse by entering prisoners is often of very low quality and in my view the 85% figure is probably an educated guess. OTOH it is more than half.

    There is no cure for alcohol/drug abuse what one does it to get the subject to change their lifestyle so they abstain. That is not that hard to do in prison but when inmate return to the community relapses are common (relapses are a frequently occurring reason for revocation of parole). Some of my friends in the alcohol/drug treatment field say that without community aftercare in prison alcohol/drug treatment is a waste of money.
    I am not sure that that is always the case.

    I think external peer review of treatment programs would help, Internal review even if it is by a member of the legislature is too easy to ignore.

    John Neff

    February 26, 2010 at 11:38 am

  2. > There is no cure for alcohol/drug abuse

    There have been HUGE strides in alcohol treatment in even the past year. I encourage you, John Neff, and anyone else who’s interested to check out The Cure for Alcoholism by Roy Eskapa, describing the modern treatment of alcoholism using Naltrexone, a cheap, mild, generic drug with few side effects.

    I have no interest or affiliation with this book or drug. I have simply seen how successful it is in person.

    The thing about Naltrexone is that YOU MUST CONTINUE DRINKING for it to work. This has been the fundamental failure of Alcoholics Anonymous, Antabuse and most other 20th century alcohol treatments: they stress abstinence above all, but abstinence, even for years, does not reduce someone’s addiction or cravings. Relapse is inevitable– it’s just a question of when.

    Naltrexone, however, does “extinguish” the alcohol addiction, using a protocol of drink + alcohol for a number of months. Sounds crazy, but it works.

    Since everyone on probation and parole are prohibited from drinking, this means that everyone released from prison is unable to take part in Naltrexone treatment. Not many people know about Naltrexone yet but it’s the future of all alcohol treatment. Again, I urge anyone interested to take a look.


    February 26, 2010 at 6:36 pm

  3. The data in recidivism and prison aftercare go from embellished to fabricated. The data has been manipulated to feign success where there wasn’t any in order to keep grants and funding flowing, These programs are useless. I have worked in the field for many years and have seen s lot of scandalous behavior. UCSD did a huge project on the success of in prison substance abuse programs (SAPs) and SASCA aftercare. Researchers were at CRC for material. When they interviewed people they told them how to answer. They’d say, “Don’t you really mean……” , etc. CRC is the biggest money scam of all the prisons. Their SAP (substance abuse Program) is 90 days long, yet civil addicts stay in there for up to a year after they’ve completed it. Right now they don’t even have a SAP at all but they keep accepting the civil commitments with no treatment for them.

    If you read the UCSD report it gushes on about the sucess of CRC. Unlike the other prisons, keeping the beds full keeps federal grant money coming in. They have been caught lying over and over again, money unaccounted for, reports proven to be fabrications, conspiracies yet somehow they keep getting away with it year after year. In January, 4 men O.D. yet the deaths were all covered up. These men were civil addicts who have been sitting in there for at least 5 months or longer after their “graduation” with nothing to do, waiting on paperwork;

    These men don’t get release dates like the felons in there do. An armed robber knows when he’ll go home but the civil addict’s sentence is indeterminate, they are kept there without a clue as to when they will leave, until CRC is ready to let them go. This causes very low morale, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, tensions lead to aggressive behavior, riots and more.

    It’s not supposed to be a summer camp, but our tax dollars are paying for this. In these trying times it would be nice if just once our tax dollars were used for something worthwhile, like educations or real rehabilitation. Someone needs to be accountable and pay attention to how the money is spent. Our kids are losing their chance for a real education because the money is going into these fake ones. It needs to stop.

    Dinah Bordum

    February 27, 2010 at 12:47 am

  4. pls visit & pray


    June 20, 2010 at 3:47 am

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