JAIL BASED SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT PROGRAM
Substance abuse and addiction have changed the nature of America’s prison
population. Alcohol, drug abusers, addicts, and those who sell illegal drugs dominate
state, federal prisons and local jails. Crime and alcohol and drug abuse go hand in hand.
Much of the growth in America’s inmate population is due to incarceration of drug law
With appropriate treatment for substance abuse and addiction, rehabilitation is
possible for many of today’s prisoners. Once they leave prison they also need continuing
aftercare, education and job training. Without treatment and training, most will commit
more crimes, get arrested and go back to prison. The choice is ours as well as theirs.
Having a group counseling program consisting of 8 to 10 members and one or
more trained Chemical Dependency Counselors would be beneficial. The purpose of the
group is to provide a safe as well as a challenging place in which to work on personal and
interpersonal concerns. Members can discuss their perception of each other and receive
feedback on how others perceive them. Establishing trust allows group members to talk
openly and honestly. Groups offer opportunity to experiment with different ways of
communicating with others and a safe place to try new behaviors. They are able to give
support and understanding, offer suggestions, or gently confront the person. Counselor
and group members work together to establish trust and commitment to the group. Those
who benefit most are usually those who take an active part in the process and who allow
themselves to give and receive honest, helpful feedback.
The following is information that I obtained from Lt. Kevin Peters at California
Institute for Men.
In 1980 the State of California had 12 prisons with 32,000 inmates. Today
California has 33 prisons with 144,00 inmates. California Institution for Men (CIM)
houses 6,500 of these inmates. Over 90% of the inmates at CIM are being incarcerated
due to related alcohol and drug crimes. The average sentence is 41.4 months with inmates
serving only 21.3 months. One inmate costs taxpayers approximately $232,291.00 for
their 21.3 month incarceration, $150,000 for arrest and conviction, another $45,000 for
additional bed and $21,470 for housing per year.
CIM says 59% to 69% of the inmates are repeat offenders and have served time
before. CIM feels it is just a place to house inmates and that there is no structure for
rehabilitation. It is not their job to rehabilitate. CIM also states that the inmates have
access to programs, such as AA, NA and Control of Substance Abuse for Mental Health.
CIM feels that if an inmate wants to attend a program, it is available. It is not mandatory
for them to attend and they cannot force an inmate to do so. The desire must be there for
the inmate. Most inmates do not attend these programs since they are not mandatory.
Most of the inmates dropped out of school due to substance abuse, the major
contributing factor regarding their lack of interest in education. Additionally, many
inmates come from poverty backgrounds.
Why do we continue to release prisoners back to the community still using and still
dealing, to commit further crimes and threaten our well-being and that of our children
without treating the problem for which they went to prison? I feel that prisons would be
a good place to develop the rehabilitation of offenders with substance abuse. The prison
system needs to take on a mandatory substance abuse treatment program for all inmates
incarcerated due to crimes related to drug use. Continuing to fund and build more prisons
for housing offenders of drug abuse are a waste of taxpayers’ money. Our prisons are full
and the majority of inmates get early releases due to the problem of overcrowding, only to
go out and commit more crimes.
Drug addiction is a chronic disease. We treat people who have cancer, heart
problems or any other disease. Although, the addicts have committed a crime, it doesnt
change the fact that they have a disease, we must also treat those who have the disease of
Looking over the different therapeutic community drug abuse treatment in prisons
throughout the country, we may ask, why haven’t all prisons adopted a program to treat
inmates with an addiction on a mandatory basis? We must target these institutions because
they house the parents of children and their child’s future. If the parents are setting the
example that drugs are okay and are doing time and repeated time, then what kind of
future is in store for these children?
Statistics show and prove that prisons can be a place to begin the rehabilitation of
offenders with a history of drug abuse. Inmates enter the program approximately 12 to 18
months prior to being released. Separated from the rest of the facility in a safe and clean
environment, they must obey all rules of the facility, be instructed on the rational model,
have a structure to follow, and be taught new skills so as they will not return back to
society without a plan. Furthermore, give them guidelines on new behaviors, dealing with
feelings, thoughts and conflicts. Learn to follow direction, acceptance of authority,
become accountable, start connecting with others and how to relate to each other. This
helps them to build trust, support, personal growth and teaches them how to make
commitments. In a therapeutic community, which is a work release facility, they learn to
cope without being in a secure environment and reenter society with a healthy outlook.
They will continue to receive care and education about their addiction. They will attend
NA, CA, AA and other programs that help them in their course of treatment.
They need to be participating in counseling and group therapy for an additional six
(6) months after they leave work release, while they are on parole or other supervised
Since drug use, violence and negative attitudes about drug abuse treatment
pervade prisons, work release centers can make rehabilitation difficult. The program
should separate participants from the rest of the correctional population. This enables
residents to create an atmosphere that encourages them to help themselves go about their
day-to-day jobs, meetings, recreational and social activities. They learn to take
responsibility for their actions, shed the negative patterns of thinking, feeling, and
behaving that contributed to their drug use. They acquire positive social attitudes and
behaviors that can help them achieve a responsible drug-free lifestyle.
The Drug Court program allows nonviolently, drug-addicted offenders to plead
guilty to charges and receive voluntary drug treatment instead of going to jail. This is a
community based sentencing and treatment program for those arrested for drug crimes.
Drug Courts use drug testing to ensure that program participants stay drug-free. They are
subject to sanctions for failing to comply with their treatment regimens and receive
incentives for progress. If they continue to fail to comply with all the program rules’ it will
result in expulsion from the program and incarceration. “Drug courts have a strong track
record showing how the influences of the courts help drug-addicted offenders
acknowledge their addiction, get treatment, and live better lives. A study conducted for
the state of California provides the most comprehensive cost-benefit examination to date
on the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment. Examining all treatment programs in the
state, researchers concluded that every dollar spent on treatment resulted in $7.00 savings
on reduced crime and health care cost.
Although these programs are not going to work for every single individual, it will
work for some, and it becomes obvious that by not sending back just one person to
prison, we save $21,470.00 for the housing of an inmate for one year, and also giving that
individual back their life.
The bottom line is, that by having rehabilitation in prisons and using the Drug
Courts as an incentive, it pays in lower recidivism. We can reduce crime and lower cost
for incarceration. There will be fewer broken families. Thus, there will be less use of
welfare and social services. This will decrease prison crowding, and avoid new prison
I feel that we also need to improve on remedial education within the prison system.
California correctional survey reports, 19% of state inmates have less than an 8th grade
education. 78% have not completed high school. 40% cannot read and up to 80% may
have learning disabilities. We definitely have an urgent need for effective remedial
education. Also, we need to teach job skills that would be beneficial to each individual.
The final outcomes of rehabilitation, are discipline, drug and alcohol treatment, education,
employment, restitution, community service and counseling, which will benefit inmates.
This will help them to create a better life when released.