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