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Warehouse or Rehabilitate Drug Offenders


In 2013, the United states had 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s inmates. One major cause of too many prisons and too many inmates is the excessive incarceration rate of non-violent inmates. A large number of non-violent inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses. The majority of our prisons and jails warehouse the drug offenders without effective drug rehabilitation programs. This approach unfortunately continues upon the release of inmates into the community.

In 2012, more than 52,000 people were arrested in New Jersey for drug violations. Drug charges are the largest category of arrests every year in New Jersey. In New Jersey, over the last five years, it was recognized by the state and by certain local communities that drug addiction was a disease and not a crime.  Gov. Chris Christie has moved the state towards treatment rather than incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. Governor Christie has advocated prison reform as a way to save tax dollars. In 2012, he helped pass bipartisan legislation mandating drug treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent offenders. He has made it clear that drug treatment and not jail sentences was the path for reduction of crime.

On the local level in New Jersey, in Hudson County, the Correctional Facility director Oscar Aviles, and former Gov. Jim McGreevey, have instituted a holistic approach to treat drug  offenders. Hudson’s prison program has provided counseling, group therapy and education to inmates. But this program goes one step further by supporting the former inmates with housing, employment options, and outpatient treatment services.

The recidivism statistics in Hudson County show that true rehabilitation programs will always prevail over warehousing and neglect of the incarcerated. Since 2009, just 23 percent of almost 700 inmates who have participated in the Hudson County program were re-arrested—while non-participants had a 55 percent recidivism rate.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com

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27 Responses to Warehouse or Rehabilitate Drug Offenders

  1. PrisonPath January 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    Erica Johnson, Ph.D.
    Offender Reentry/Life Skills Coach and Diversity Consultant

    I was both shocked and disappointed to learn that rehabilitation of offenders was not a priority of the agency where I was formerly employed. We should equip inmates with skills necessary for successful reentry and not just warehouse them with little interest in their future.

  2. PrisonPath January 12, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    shaukat mahmood
    Member Health Foundation at Government Punjab Pakistan

    There is a report that there are more prisons in US than the colleges.Apparently govt. Likes to have more prisoners that educated people.BradleyUS is ruled by corporations Only 35 percent of people in US exercise their right to vote in elections.this means governments are not representative of more than half the population.Above all elections are bought by business sector,Prisons are run by private profits.

  3. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    I’m so tired of repeating myself over this nonsense of “mass incarceration” etc. that I wrote a book to shatter this and all the other myths about our criminal justice system.

    In 1790 a group of religious fanatics decided that prisons should “correct” people through “penance” by locking them up with only a bible to read. The experiment was a failure but prisons have been stuck with that impossible mission ever since. I say impossible because no other institution in the world expects them to transform people into what they’re not.

    Churches aren’t held accountable if people don’t turn into saints. Hospitals aren’t held accountable for failing to cure someone of pancreatic cancer or a broken neck. But prisons are blamed for failing to turn thugs into responsible law abiding citizens. Prisons should provide treatment and educational opportunities to inmates but it’s up to the individual to change him or herself. Instead we’ve provided ex-cons the perfect excuse for committing more crime. They simply have to say “they didn’t rehabilitate me. All I learned in prison was how to be a better criminal”. Well…yea
    By Ed

  4. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    I spent 27+ years in State Corrections retiring from the dual titles of Executive Hearing Officer and Department policy and procedure custodian and coordinator. There are two categories of offenders that we have been warehousing with tragic results since the 1970’s; those being non-violent drug addicts and the mentally ill. Many people in both groups are incapable of taking care of themselves in the community at some point in their lives and have few places to turn for help. There are waiting lists at the few treatment facilities that will accept non or under-insured men and women, and even then, the treatment is not comprehensive enough to make much difference.

    The mentally ill are stabilized, given prescriptions they cannot fill and and shuffled back to the streets where they soon decompensate and commit survival crimes.

    Drug addicts in the same situation are either not treated in time and end up just another young man or woman who become a new statistic in the macabre overdose death count or they also commit survival crimes and end up incarcerated.

    Both instances illustrate the shameful failure of this nation’s treatment of and attitudes toward both groups.

    The issues are varied and complex and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I do know from many years working with both populations that turning them into criminals instead of patients exacerbates the odds against recovery and management of their illnesses. We can and should be doing much better and should be ashamed of our dubious title of the world’s greatest incarcerator, beating out every despotic regime in the world. Prison Nation, the title of a documentary about over incarceration, is an accurate and well earned moniker. It is also descriptive of this country’s greatest domestic failure. Few politicians have the moral courage to confront the problem, neither on the local or national level so we keep dancing the same old dance, expecting the corpse of justice to revive in our arms any day now. Of one thing I am certain; that will never happen until the music changes and we dance a different dance.
    By Tom

  5. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

    Good idea… no need for incarceration for non-violent drug users… while were at it, anyone who skips out on millions in taxes should be put into a program to teach them about the benefits of paying taxes; anyone who doesn’t pay their child support should just be given a slap on the wrist; people selling dope on the street (to YOUR children) should be put through a D.A.R.E. program. All we’re teaching these junkies is that it’s ok to go out and commit a felony crime, we’ll take care of you (and in most cases, foot the bill too). As employee of the NJDOC for almost 10 years now, I can tell you first hand that even those non-violent drug offenders need to be incarcerated because all they know is how to try to beat, cheat, and scam the system, even if by selling drugs to make money, instead of getting a real job. Way to go gov.. another bright idea.
    By Rob

  6. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

    Interesting topic – I question whether some folks can be or want to be rehabilitated or if there is the public will or money to do so. Some people need to be locked up and SOCIETY needs to be protected from these predators.

    We will see first hand in California how this actually works. Several things have occurred in the last several years and most recently with the passage of a new law that will show how releasing a large felon prison population interacts with society.

    Many years ago the USSC issued its edict to California to reduce the prison population. So our distinguished governor rose to the occasion by ordering the release of thousands (as a commanding officer I attended a meeting with our state AG many years ago and the estimated number was projected to be some 38+ thousand.) All so called “non-violent” offenders, and drug offenders (possession or sales convictions) have been released back into the our civilian population. Of course there was no consideration for any prior violent convictions (robbery, rape, murder) they may have had. And that has led to several violent crimes, confrontations and shootouts with police.

    Then there were the bright California legislators who proposed Prop 47 which had a fancy title related to “safe schools and neighborhoods”. Anything with “schools” in the title always gets voted for in California. Prop 47 passed and took effect immediately in Nov 2014. Of the many dictates was the possession of drugs of ANY amount is a misdemeanor. What were shoplift burglaries are now misdemeanors, what was felony grand theft is now a misdemeanor for property under $950 – including stolen guns and cars under $950. So ALL property theft is a misdemeanor under $950. And those are just some of the highlights! So, for the most part most arrestees are being cited out after arrest. So the prisons are being emptied and we are now seeing an uptick in property and violent crime in sunny California. And Prop 47 is retroactive! Leading to a new cottage industry for lawyers who now advertise themselves as “re-sentencing specialists” – yeah – right!

    Oh then there are the numerous “openings” of half way houses throughout the state in everyone’s neighborhoods with no rules or regulations on the number of people living under one roof. And Local police departments are now responsible for conducting parole compliance checks – when they can find the parolee there.

    So now our police have to concern themselves with terrorists and the next strike are now arresting and re-arresting the same cons over and over. A burglary crew that had been released from prison, went back to their pharmacy burglaries – were caught again, convicted of burglary and spent 66 days in jail and were released back into a unsuspecting naive population. Yeah it looks like this is working well alright – not!
    By Nick

  7. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

    I have a couple of concerns with this discussion. One is the title suggests that warehousing aka incarceration and rehabilitation are mutually exclusive where they usually are not. Many prisons and personnel run fine rehabilitation programs. As Nick suggested you cannot force someone to be rehabilitated or accept change. But worse is that field professionals are assuming that prisons don’t offer good programming and staff don’t care beyond job self protection. It is simply not true.

    My second concern is partially a question. What is a non-violent offender? I realize it is determined by statute in each jurisdiction but some things cannot be legislated. For example, are you different because when you broke into my home you were fortunate in that I wasn’t home so you didn’t have to defend yourself or hurt me? Does the definition consider the fear you have instilled in me due to the invasion into the one place I expected to feel safe? Does it consider the immense heartache and loss introduced into your victims’ lives to support your habits? Or the negative influence and m
    anipulation of others? Anyone who has ever been a victim knows that physical violence is not the only form of violence. Threats, fear, and more are just as damaging to the victim and even the perpetrator ‘s family but cannot be legislated.
    By Clare

  8. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    From an academic point of view you are correct Ms. Seward. However, in the trenches, inside our prisons, the number 1 concern of every offender is survival. Yes there are good people and programs in many systems. There are many who strive their entire careers to make positive improvements to the system and in the lives of those offenders they are able to help. I like to count myself among those. But you must be aware of recent research that suggests that once an offender completes treatment in a prison based program and is returned to general population, within 6 months their recidivism rates approach those who are released without completing treatment. Why bother?

    Many drug addicts are imprisoned after their third felony shoplifting conviction. Many after other property crimes that don’t involve home burglaries or invasions. You must surely know that. The best way to harden a young drug addict is to throw him or her into prison for a year or two or more and give them a few months of good treatment. Which is going to have the greatest impact on them? It is not the people who are trying to help addicts recover that is at issue. It is the environment that engulfs and overwhelms their most valiant efforts.
    By Tom

  9. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

    I wonder why no one seems to be drawing the conclusion that mandatory sentencing and “warehousing” of offenders has at least had some impact on crime rates. All across the country, crime rates are for the most part down…..and this was during an economic down trend. Inmate numbers are also at an all time high. Seems the instructors I had in college that taught us the police did not impact crime because it was related to societal ills were wrong ! Without beating a dead horse here, we don’t have sanitariums anymore and we have never been successful at “corrections.” The truth is that our jails have always been a dumping ground and prisons (oops, correctional facilities) have always been a warehouse. I have no problem keeping offenders in prison for longer terms — if it makes our society safer.
    By Mike

  10. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

    Antoine Ensley
    Antoine Ensley
    Human Resource Analyst/Recruitment Consultant at City of Charlotte

    I am often taken back when I read some of the comments related to these issues in various forums. Unfortunately, most are substantially unaware of the substantive issues related to mass incarceration. As a nation we ventured away from prisons being a place for potential rehabilitation many years ago. The indutry is far too lucrative for real solutions. This is already a national issue, when it becomes a national priority we may see some a movement. Familes and children are negatively imapcted by this current failed system. However those families and children are not among the majority so this is still not a real priority. Public safety needs new 21st century thinkers at the table.
    By Antoine

  11. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    Unaware of the substantive issues related to mass incarceration ? Really ? I’m at least enough of a realist to question the mindset of having only one prison in Florida ( Florida State Prison – home of death row) and the rest “Correctional Institutions.” And I disagree with the suggestion that I am unaware. I believe it would be more accurate to say I,and others, simply see the world differently. I respect your opinion, I just don’t agree.
    By Mike

  12. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

    This subject has been demagogued to death lately… Many drug offenders have a priori violent criminal record as well, so be mindful when throwing around that all purpose label as you look to open the gates of hell… Incarceration is about warehousing? News flash! It serves incapacitation and retribution, two well known purposes of punishment… In most cases rehabilitation is pointless, it’s more like habilitation would be the goal… This mantra over America’s high incarceration rate is disingenuous: we are a country of law & order, so the high incarceration rate should only be evidence of consistent success. Have you noticed a connection between high incarceration rate and the lowest crime rate i
    in fifty years?! See the alternative in countries with reduced incarceration rates: l-a-w-l-e-s–s-n-e-s-s!
    By Jose

  13. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    I agree with Thomas Anderson’s comments. The issue of drug generated crime and those caused by the mentally ill zombies walking our streets are tremendous issues that need to be addressed. Even though I believe Reagan was one of the greatest presidents we have ever had; when he was Gov. of California he removed funding for almost 50% of the mental health facilities we had on-line at the time. Once he did that, the care and housing of those individuals fell the jails and prisons, who were and currently are ill-equipped to handle these people. The care of many of those suffering from mental health issues (many of which also have drug dependencies) and who are in the lower to lower middle class strata is the revolving door from street to jail and back to the street. Frankly, it is my opinion, that until modern medicine can find more fixes for fixing what transpires in the brain when one is afflicted with the terror of mental health, we will be in the same fix. I am reading, that more and more emphasis on mental health research is being directed towards fixing the chemical imbalances in the brain via different types of surgery instead of the old time fixes of developing one drug to counteract the addiction of another. If you review history heroin was developed to eliminate morphine addiction, etc, etc. Until someone can find the magic cure; we as a society are left holding the dripping bag full of dilemma that we currently have today.
    By Mike

  14. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    Just a few observations. If hospitals had success rates in the 20 to 30% range they’d be out of business. I’ll have to let everyone in Canada and Europe know they live in lawless societies. There are many things that impact on crime rates like unemployment rates and the size of the age cohort that commit most crimes. In NJ we reduced our prison population from 31000 in 1999 down to 21000 in 2014 while not increasing our crime rate and maintaining one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country. Government made a major investment in reentry progams for both parole and corrections and developed and expanded drug courts. 95% of folks in our prisons will get out, if we simply lock them up without institutional and community programs they will be back.
    By James

  15. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill began in the 1950’s but reached it’s peak in 1973 when a federal court ruled that mental patients who performed work during confinement were employees and should be paid minimum wage. It was down hill from there. Instead of making mental institutions more humane, as they needed to be, they were closed and it became harder to commit someone.

    The good news is that for the past 20 years the CJS has been transforming by problem solving strategies. All this punishment vs rehab stuff is old school. The common mission of the CJS is not to do things to or for offenders but to work with the community and other justice components to solve problems at the neighborhood level at create safer communities.
    By Ed

  16. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    All of the opinions expressed have made interesting points. Yet, it does not make any sense tax wise or moral wise to lock up the mentally ill. It is too easy to say that crimes rates have fallen because the incarceration rates are at an all time high. One of the factors for increased crime rates in the 1970’s–1990’s was the closing of the state hospitals which had treated the mentally ill. Approximately, 700,000–800,000 former patients were released during this period into the local communities. Many did not receive treatment and became part of the increased crime rates. This is one of the major reasons for the explosion in the inmate population. With many of the mentally ill being locked up, the crime rates decreased. Of course, there are other reasons contributing to our high inmate population and plethora of prisons, but you cannot ignore the mentally ill issue.contributing to our massive prison population.
    By Bradley

  17. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    The same deinstitutionalization mentality that was behind the closing of mental hospitals is behind the prison reform movement. Reformers would argue that they want prisons to remain open but only for the most violent offenders such as serial murderers and rapists.

    When I was at NIC a popular cliche was that we should lock up people we were afraid of and not those that we were mad at. My response was that any policy based on either fear or anger was bad policy. As I said before, answers should be based on reason instead of pure emotion.
    By Ed

  18. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    I agree that answers should not be based on pure emotion and that’s why my answer was based on facts.Present incarceration policies should be based on what really led to such high incarceration rates and what can resolve these issues.
    By Bradley

  19. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

    Bradley. You did base your answer on facts. The point I was trying to make is that now that we’ve deinstitutionalized the mentally ill and created a bigger problem, that same mentality seems to be at work in the prison reform movement (except of course for the most violent offenders as they would tell you).
    By Ed

  20. PrisonPath January 15, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    Don’t know about the probation side in NJ but on the parole side I doubt that’s happening. Our parole officers are considered law enforcement and carry weapons. Don’t see them ignoring new crimes.
    Ninty Five % of offenders will be released. We need to insure while they are in our care and custody that we attempt to impact the behavior that led to to their CJS involvement.
    Like Reply privately Flag as inappropriate 1 hour ago.
    By James

  21. PrisonPath January 18, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    It is true that drug abuse can cause on health & develop many type of disease. The main point is that many Religion are against the use of “Alcohol & Drugs”, therefore people do not use drugs. These countries have less problem for keeping people in jail or in hospital for treatment which save money for these countries. [This problem should be [discuss] taught at very young age that will reduce the drug abuse].
    By Manny

  22. PrisonPath January 18, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    Drug abuse should not be a crime.. It is a physiological problem that needs to be treated with services the AA NA rehabilitation centers… If it was decriminalized the prison system would lose money!!! So I would have to say yes it is warehousing inmates.. I feel that if we can rehabilitate people and provide the proper services for them. Crime rates would go down and job rates would rise.. And tax payers wouldn’t be stuck with the bill to house them in prisons.. Save the prisons for real criminals that are deserving of punishment… Just desert
    By Felicia

  23. PrisonPath January 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    Felicia. Crime rates have gone done by quite a lot. Please read my prior post with the stats. This is despite more unemployment.

    “Save the prisons for real criminals that are deserving of punishment… Just desert”

    Who are these people that do and do not deserve punishment and incarceration or the “real” criminals?
    By Ed

  24. PrisonPath January 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    I read your last comment. Yes I’m not sure how low recidivism rates dropped but if we could combine restorive justice with retubutive justice we might have a real chance for recidivism rates to genuinely drop because people see the error of their ways and want to change not because parole/probation officers are being told not to violate them for minor offenses…
    By Felicia

  25. PrisonPath January 18, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    Prisons should be used for real criminals.. Drug addicted people don’t deserve to be in prison.. The need help just like the mentally I’ll is being put in jails and prisons when they need to be in a hospital…
    By Felicia

  26. PrisonPath January 18, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    You have a good case for tuition reimbursement…
    By Jose

  27. PrisonPath January 18, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    Felicia. You seem to believe the fantasy spread by your professors and others that our prisons are filled with people who are guilty of nothing more than “using” or “abusing” drugs. This brings to mind some poor slobs minding their own business in the privacy of their own homes smoking weed or doing a few lines of coke when the SWAT team breaks down their door and hauls them off to the big house.

    Like I’ve said countless times before, there’s not a single police force in the country or the world that has the resources or time to spend on such wasteful practices. If the cops did that, they’d exhaust their funding and energy and wouldn’t have time to do anything else. There are very few, if any, individuals serving hard prison time (here the distinction between prisons and jails becomes essential) for simply using or abusing drugs.

    Most individuals arrested for simple drug possession are arrested during investigations for other criminal activity. The cops don’t patrol the streets hoping to catch people doing drugs in their homes or anyplace else. Like I said, if they did they wouldn’t have time for anything else.

    You and your professors are in desperate need of a reality check. Looking back to my own college days and my professors, that’s easier said than done.
    By Ed

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