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December 27, 2015

"Prisons as addiction treatment centers?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this local article from the Buckeye State.  Here are excerpts:

With at least four of five inmates struggling with addiction, Ohio's prisons are beginning to look more like drug treatment centers.

Prisoners participate in group counseling sessions, visit with prison "alumni" who have remained sober after leaving incarceration and enroll in Medicaid to help pay for counseling and medication-assisted treatment after they are released.  Money from the state budget, $27.4 million through June 30, is paying for more counselors to treat addiction inside Ohio's prisons, said Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The concept is relatively simple: people addicted to drugs commit crimes like possessing drugs, selling drugs, stealing money or property to buy drugs and hurting others because they are under the influence of drugs. Take away the compulsion for drugs and alcohol, and these lower-level offenders might not return to prison, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction director Gary Mohr said. "What we’re attempting to do is reduce crime victims out in Ohio," Mohr said.

Before changes in July, Ohio prisons were releasing 8,000 to 9,000 people with serious addiction problems each year without treating half of them, Mohr said. Staying for less than six months?  You weren't eligible.  Too many inmates on the waiting list?  There wasn't not enough staff to help.  Now, people who will be released in three months can start counseling in prison and have their medical records sent to a halfway house when they leave.  By signing released prisoners up for Medicaid, the insurance program might pay for medication-assisted treatment and counseling — a combination considered by many physicians to be the gold standard of treatment.

"I can tell you right now we are going to be treating thousands of people that we weren’t treating before," Mohr said. When an inmate enters prison, he goes to a short-term reception center, and takes a test designed to spot mental health and addiction concerns.  From there, he is sent to the prison where he will serve out his term. If the inmate isn't a violent offender, he might participate in a therapeutic community, groups of 70 to 180 inmates who live together, attend group counseling sessions and commit to good behavior while in prison, or a reintegration unit, where inmates work eight to 10 hours a day to simulate life outside prison.

Plouck wants to triple the number of inmates in therapeutic communities by mid 2017 by expanding the number of communities from four to eight. Madison Correctional Institution and Noble Correctional Institution are next on the list.  In 2014, 569 inmates participated; by 2017, prison officials hope to have 1,500 enrolled.

Mohr also wants to have every prison enrolling eligible inmates in Medicaid by the end of 2016. Currently, 10 of 27 prisons are enrolling inmates in the low-income insurance program expanded by Gov. John Kasich.  About 2,400 people have signed up since the program began in earnest this fall, Mohr said.  Medicaid can pay for counseling and medication-assisted treatment after prisoners leave incarceration....

A smooth transition from treatment in prison to treatment outside of prison is critical. It's easy to remain sober in prison with no access to drugs or alcohol. The challenge comes when they are released back to homes where relatives or friends might still be using drugs or alcohol, Plouck said.

December 27, 2015 at 12:15 PM | Permalink


I know anecdotes have no validity, but this is noteworthy. Robert Downey Jr. was arrested and violated from probation a dozen times. Each time the judge assigned him to rehab. He would fully comply, graduate, and meet his cocaine dealer in the parking lot upon discharge. He was found unconscious, face down in the street of the Los Angeles skid row. The judge said, enough. He put him in Corcoran prison for a year.

He comes out and does Iroman I, II, III, Sherlock Holmes. More importantly, he is seen accompanying his wife again, after she had dumped him as hopeless.

So prison confinement is the active ingredient. That judge stopped catering to him as a star and treated him as what he really was, an addict. As a result, the judge saved his life, restored his marriage, and generated $billions in movie business as he was able to function as a great actor again.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 27, 2015 1:40:14 PM

Someone recently reminded me that prison as rehabilitation is deemed inappropriate as a sentencing factor but things like this suggest prison can -- at times -- have that function. However imperfect.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 27, 2015 6:23:55 PM

I agree prison is a rehabilitative tool. Problem I have is when it goes federal and they trip half a dozen triggers and the person gets 15-30 or more. Doesnt make any sense.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Dec 28, 2015 12:09:54 AM

It is not rehab. Rehab is quackery. Like grow up, you big government propagandists.

It is prison confinement. It separates the addicts brain from the substance until it gets reset.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 28, 2015 1:28:25 AM

45 years into the drug war, a few policy makers finally realize that we should take treatment seriously, partly because someone else will pay for part of it. Maybe in another 45 years we'll see the wisdom of more treatment for people in the community to prevent some of the crimes they will ultimately get arrested for.

Posted by: Paul | Dec 28, 2015 9:25:11 AM

My information is that the new Justice Secretary under the new Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, will seek to turn under-utilized, low security juvenile prisons into drug treatment centers for the incarcerated. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Dec 28, 2015 9:33:39 AM

America needs a drug free penal colony. I suggest Georgia because of its past. Uncle Clarence hails from Pin Pointe or some such town. Send all inmates to drug free penal colony and teach them to grow cotton and other things. If they steal or re commit then shoot em.

Posted by: Beldar From Remulak | Dec 30, 2015 12:51:54 PM

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