Americans are finally realizing that incarceration is not the answer for addicted offenders. The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates and only 5% of the world’s population. A major cause of our shameful incarceration statistics lies in our approach to addicted Americans.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported in 2010 that “of the 2.3 million inmates crowding our nations prisons and jails, 1.5 million meet the DSM-IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction, and another 458,000, while not meeting the strict DSM-IV criteria, had histories of substance abuse; were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of their crime; committed their offense to get money to buy drugs; were incarcerated for an alcohol or drug law violation; or shared some combination of these characteristics.”
One of the sane voices in our justice system is Steven W. Tompkins, Sheriff of Suffolk County, Massachusetts.
Sheriff Tompkins has stated, “approximately 70 percent of the current inmate population in Suffolk County have used and abused drugs and alcohol. Regrettably, many of them are likely to reengage in drug use and eventual criminal activity soon after release, unless we can successfully address their addictions.”
Sheriff Tompkins has devoted extensive resources in his jail to treat inmates for their addictions, but many upon release succumb to their demons and slide back into a life of crime to support their addictions.
We need a three-pronged approach to resolve this crisis. First,our local communities need effective drug and alcohol treatment for addicted individuals, before they have committed crimes. Second, we just cannot warehouse defendants and inmates without providing addiction treatment programs in our jails and prisons. Third, released defendants–inmates need credible continuing drug abuse treatment.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com