Helping Prisoners With Their Substance Abuse Problems

People argue about crime and punishment. The justice system is ever evolving and forever being discussed. One issue regards the treatment of prisoners in our jails. Should they be helped? Is prison there to punish or to rehabilitate or both? These issues are particularly important when we consider drugs.

Substance abuse is a major factor in the cause of crime and substance abuse for prisoners when in jail is also a dangerous and ongoing problem while they are incarcerated. There is no doubt the federal government wants to reduce crime and to that end provides millions of dollars each year to fund programs in jails. The money filters down through state and local authorities but it does come with certain strings attached. There is no program where money is thrown at the problem in some wild hope the program will work.

There are many conditions under which funds are granted for substance abuse programs.

– The program must run for at least 6 months
– The venue for the sessions must be isolated from the rest of the prison
– A total or whole life approach must be pinpointed and
– Specific substance abuse must be the target of the program

When you think that some US$10million was spent on drug rehabilitation programs for prisoners in American jails in 2008 you can see that this is a major offensive with the clear goal of helping prisoners become drug free once they leave prison. From a money point of view, sending a prisoner back into society with few if any living skills is a waste of money. The prisoner will likely go back to crime and end up where they started. It makes sound economical sense to help prisoners stay out of jail.

Of course from a humane point of view, helping people with a drug problem is always the best option for the individual and for society.

So do the programs work? Well any test needs to [a] cater for a large number of prisoners who have undertaken the program and [b] to be held over many years. To date the jury is still out on the effectiveness of such programs.

The content of the programs for prisoners is pretty much the same used for people with a drug problem who are not in jail. There are two aspects of all programs. They want to help the addict kick their habit and they want to impart skills to help the addict remain drug free in the future. Both are essential.

In jail, the prisoner has to overcome the need for substance abuse and then remain drug free, hopefully for life.

Naturally there are people who speak out against the programs. They argue that prisons are there as a place of punishment. That is true of course but sending a prisoner back into society for him or her to take up their life of crime again benefits nobody. Common sense suggests that removing prisoners from their substance abuse habit can only help both the individual and society.