Criminal Justice & Addiction

Incarcerating those struggling with addiction is expensive and ineffective

There are a lot of different ways to look at substance abuse and addiction, we spoke to someone who had a unique perspective; using the addiction to build wealth. Created by: Drew Vernon

Mass Incarceration is Not the Answer

The criminal justice system plays a crucial part when addressing the opioid epidemic and how individuals are receiving care while incarcerated or even upon release from sentencing. Addicts who are away from the high while incarcerated for crimes such as stealing, human trafficking or drug related crimes deserve the same treatment as those who are walking freely around the streets. Although some individuals who do drugs and are addicted do not get put into correctional facilities, there are a substantial amount who do because of numerous counts of drug possession or the act of doing certain drugs. According to the Washington Post, “of the 2.3 million people in American prisons or jails, 65 percent meet medical criteria for substance abuse addiction.”

With the criminal justice system being full of funding coming from state and government taxes, it would appear that the funding would go to curing problems that put inmates there in the first place. But the lack of resources in prison and jail facilities is affecting how inmates are treated for addiction problems. On top of that, they need the help to be put into recovery upon their release date. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the average cost in Pennsylvania to keep prisons operating for more than 48,000 prisoners is about $2.1 billion, making the average cost per prisoner around $42,300.

Joseph Curran, executive director of the Ambrosia Treatment Center in New Jersey, said,”if you go into our prison system, probably 90% of the people who are in there, have an addiction problem. And if you don’t treat the addiction problem, they’re just going to repeat and come back in again, so, it is breaking our criminal justice system, our department of health and public welfare are paying for addiction.”

Many prison systems implement in-house treatment, the most common in federal prisons being RDAP (Residential Drug Abuse Program). RDAP was set into place by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to allow inmates to have a residential rehabilitation program for those who are addicted to any sort of substance. These programs came about in 2009 and have allowed many inmates to shorten their sentences for drug related cases that made them incarcerated from the start.

“People don’t start off in the morning and wake up and say ‘I’m going to get addicted to opioids or heroin today,’” Lieutenant Andrew Black, of the Radnor Police Station, stated. “It’s many different aspects that cause that, so, why not give them the opportunity to basically start over?”

Although there is a program in incarceration facilities to help those who are struggling with addiction problems, many inmates are unable to participate in the six to twelve month rehabilitation program for early sentence dismissal. Inmates are required to score five to seven on a ten-point testing scale, so rehabilitation is not promised for every inmate. Along with having to score a certain number, there are wait lists for this program, due to the high demand for help by inmates around the country. With this in mind, it is hard to find out how inmates can get the help they need from the criminal justice system for an issue that got them into jail or prison in the first place.

Written by: Brianna Morrell

Addicted inmates often times do not receive the proper rehabilitation treatments while incarcerated. Created by: Drew Vernon