A new prescription: investing in substance-abuse treatment would take a big bite out of crime.Investing in substance-abuse treatment would take a big bite Big Bite was an Australian sketch comedy broadcast on the Seven Network in an evening timeslot. The show starred Chris Lilley of We Can Be Heroes and Andrew O'Keefe, who would go on to fame as host of the Seven Network's Deal or No Deal, Dragons' Den, The Rich List out of crime
If, as conservative and liberals agree, the most basic responsibility of government is to protect the public safety of its citizens, then the failure to treat and train the 1.2 million alcohol and drug abusers and addicts crowding America's prisons is the nation's most egregious display of public irresponsibility.
In America crime and alcohol and drug abuse are joined at the hip. For two decades we have been filling prisons with drug and alcohol abusers and addicts and, without treatment or training, returning them to society to resume the criminal activity spawned by their substance abuse. In 1997 more Americans were in prison, most of them substance abusers, than graduated from college. This is public policy crafted in the theater of the absurd theater of the absurd: see drama, Western. and acted out by political demagogues.
Individuals who commit serious offenses such as drug dealing and violent and property crimes belong in prison. But it is just as much in the interest of public safety to rehabilitate those who can be redeemed as it is to keep incorrigibles behind bars. The great disconnect in current criminal justice policy is that we are not doing well on either track.
More than 1.8 million individuals are behind bars in America: 1,130,000 in state prisons, 568,000 in local jails and 113,000 in federal prisons. Eighty percent--1,450,000 inmates--either violated drug or alcohol laws, were high at the time of their offense, stole property to buy drugs, have histories of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, or share some mix of these characteristics. Tragically, among these 1,450,000 inmates are the parents of 2.4 million children.
Some 200,000 of these prisoners are drug dealers who don't use drugs. The remaining 1.2 million are drug and alcohol abusers and addicts. Some would have committed their crimes regardless of their substance abuse. But hundreds of thousands are individuals whose core problem is the abuse and addiction that prompted their criminal activity. They would be law-abiding, working, taxpaying citizens and responsible parents if they lived sober lives.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) was established in 1992 by Joseph A. Califano, Jr. The stated, official goals of the organization, now called the National Center on Substance Abuse at Columbia University, are
Police officers and other law enforcement officers are authorized by federal, state, and local lawmakers to arrest and confine persons suspected of crimes. The judicial system is authorized to confine persons convicted of crimes. and health care costs, and benefit to the economy. If all 1.2 million inmates with drug and alcohol problems got such treatment and training (cost: $7.8 billion) and only 10 percent became sober, working citizens (benefit: $8.26 billion), the investment would more than pay for itself during their first year of work. Thereafter, the nation would receive a benefit of more than $8 billion for each year those released inmates remain employed and drug and crime free.
The potential crime reduction is also big league. Expert estimates of crimes committed by drug addicts range from 89 to 191 a year. At the conservative end, successfully treating and training just 10,000 drug addicts would eliminate 1 million crimes a year. That's the kind of return on investment to capture the imagination of any businessman. Getting through to our politicians is another matter.
After three years studying the relationship between prison inmates and substance abuse, I am convinced that the present system of prison and punishment only is insane public policy. Despite tougher sentencing laws, on average inmates are released in 18 months to four years. Even those convicted of such violent crimes as aggravated assault A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he or she attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another or causes such injury purposely, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; or attempts to cause or purposely or and robbery are out in three to four years.
Releasing drug and alcohol addicts and abusers without treatment or training is tantamount to visiting criminals on society. Releasing drug addicts is a government price-support program for the illegal drug market. Temporarily housing such prisoners without treating and training them is a profligate prof·li·gate
1. Given over to dissipation; dissolute.
2. Recklessly wasteful; wildly extravagant.
A profligate person; a wastrel. use of public funds See Fund, 3.
See also: Public and the greatest missed opportunity to cut crime further.
Currently, we have in America a prison population the size of Houston, Texas “Houston” redirects here. For other uses, see Houston (disambiguation).
Houston (pronounced /'hjuːstən/) is the largest city in the state of Texas and the , the nation's fourth largest city. If we don't deal with alcohol and drug abuse and revamp our system of crime and justice, one of every 20 Americans born in 1997 will spend some time in jail, including one of every 11 men and one of every four black men.
The first step toward sensible criminal policy is to face reality. Prisons are wall-to-wall with drug and alcohol addicts and abusers. Popular perceptions of inmates shaped by vivid movie and television images of playful Bonnies and Clydes, mafia dons like Marlon Brando Marlon Brando, Jr. (April 3 1924 – July 1 2004) was an Academy Award-winning American actor whose body of work spanned over half a century. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential actors of all time. who refuse to deal drugs, and psychopaths like James Cagney in the 1930s gangster films are ancient history. For eight out of 10 inmates in the 1990s, substance abuse has been the defining characteristic of their lives and criminal histories.
Appropriate substance abuse treatment has a higher success rate than many long-shot cancer therapies. It could certainly help 20 percent of the substance abusers in prison: That's a quarter of a million criminals who could be turned into law-abiding citizens and good parents.
Substance abuse and the failure to treat it in the criminal population are tightly associated with recidivism recidivism: see criminology. . The more prior convictions an individual has, the more likely that individual is a drug abuser. In state prisons, 41 percent of first offenders have used drugs regularly, compared to 63 percent of inmates with two prior convictions, and 81 percent of those with five or more. State prison inmates with five or more convictions are seven times likelier than first offenders to be heroin addicts and three times likelier to be hooked on crack. Only 25 percent of federal inmates with no prior convictions are regular drug users, but 71 percent of those with five of more convictions have histories of regular drug use. The recidivism-drug abuse relationship is similar among the local jail population.
Alcohol abuse is the first cousin of violent crime. More widely available than illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and LSD LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide (lī'sûr`jĭk, dī'ĕth`ələmĭd, dī'ĕthəlăm`ĭd), alkaloid synthesized from lysergic acid, which is found in the fungus ergot ( , alcohol is a bigger culprit in connection with murder, rape, assault, and child and spouse abuse than any illegal drug. Of state prisoners incarcerated incarcerated /in·car·cer·at·ed/ (in-kahr´ser-at?ed) imprisoned; constricted; subjected to incarceration.
Confined or trapped, as a hernia. for violent crimes, 21 percent were under the influence of alcohol alone when they committed their offense; only 3 percent were under the influence of cocaine or crack alone, and only 1 percent were under the influence of heroin alone. The situation is similar among federal prisoners.
The common denominator common denominator
1. Mathematics A quantity into which all the denominators of a set of fractions may be divided without a remainder.
2. A commonly shared theme or trait. among inmates is not race; it's drug and alcohol abuse. Blacks are disproportionately represented in prison. Though they make up only 11 percent of the adult population, they constitute 46 percent of state, 42 percent of jail and 30 percent of federal inmates. Whites, 76 percent of the adult population, comprise 35 percent of state, 39 percent of jail and 38 percent of federal inmates. However, essentially the same proportions of black and white (and Hispanic) state inmates, 61 to 65 percent, are regular drug users.
With rehabilitation of the bulk of the prison population dependent on breaking inmates' substance abuse and addiction, mandatory sentences--especially those that require the convict to serve the entire sentence imposed--subvert rather than promote the public safety. Corrections officials need every possible carrot and stick Carrot and stick (also spelled "carrot-and-stick") is an idiom used to refer to the act of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. The carrot represents the edible reward, while the stick refers to a punishing switch. to get inmates into treatment, including the carrot of reduced prison time for substance-abusing inmates who successfully complete treatment and the stick of prompt return to jail for parolees who fail to participate in post-release treatment and aftercare af·ter·care
Follow-up care provided after a medical procedure or treatment program.
the care and treatment of a convalescent patient, especially one that has undergone surgery. . Mandatory sentences take away any hope of early release for entering treatment and the threat of immediate return to prison for failure to stay off drugs and alcohol. Mandatory sentences also deny judges and prosecutors flexibility to divert substance-abusing defendants into treatment, drug courts, coerced abstinence Coerced abstinence is a drug rehabilitation program than can dramatically reduce recidivism rates among chronic drug users, especially those on probation and parole. Most probation agreements mandate drug treatment but a coerced abstinence program mandates only abstinence through regular, and other alternatives to prison which hold the potential of reducing recidivism and crime.
Religion (notably Christianity and Islam The historical interaction between Christianity and Islam, in the field of comparative religion, connects fundamental ideas in Christianity with similar ones in Islam. Islam and Christianity share their origins in the Abrahamic tradition though Christianity predates Islam by six ) and spirituality can play a role often decisive in the rehabilitation of many inmates. Inmates and treatment providers commonly cite spirituality, God, or a Higher Power Higher power is a term used in a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, to describe "a power greater than yourself." Although many participants equate their higher power with God, a belief in God or in formal religion is not mandatory; the higher power is intended as a as a factor in getting and staying sober, coping with prison life, successfully reentering re·en·ter also re-en·ter
v. re·en·tered, re·en·ter·ing, re·en·ters
1. To enter or come in to again.
2. To record again on a list or ledger.
v.intr. the community, and ending criminal conduct. Alcoholics Anonymous Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), worldwide organization dedicated to the treatment of alcoholics; founded 1935 by two alcoholics, one a New York broker, the other an Ohio physician. and other 12-step programs stress the role of spirituality in recovery. A study of New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of State inmates in the Prison Fellowship programs founded by Charles Colson Charles (Chuck) Wendell Colson (born October 16, 1931, in Boston, Massachusetts) was the chief counsel for President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973 and was one of the Watergate Seven, jailed for Watergate-related charges. showed that inmates who were active in bible studies were less likely to commit infractions while incarcerated and be arrested during a one year follow-up after release than those who were less active or did not participate in such programs. Only 14 percent of program participants were arrested compared to the 41 percent of nonparticipants.
The expense of building and operating prisons is the 800-pound gorilla in most state budgets, with spending rising at a breakneck break·neck
1. Dangerously fast: a breakneck pace.
2. Likely to cause an accident: a breakneck curve. pace, up 28 percent in 1996, compared to a three percent increase in Medicaid spending. That year Americans paid $38 billion in taxes to build and operate 4,700 prisons 1,403 state, 82 federal and 3,304 local.
Politicians camouflage the failure of their punishment-only prisons by huffing and puffing tough rhetoric. Each year they pass tougher sentencing laws, build more prisons and hire more prison guards. These governors, presidents and legislators are like a chorus of children reciting together, "If all the king's horses and all the kings men can't put Humpty Dumpty Humpty Dumpty
arbitrarily gives his own meanings to words, and tolerates no objections. [Br. Lit.: Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass]
See : Arrogance
Humpty Dumpty back together again, then give us more horses and give us more men."
Recently politicians have rushed to cite reductions in crime as their success story. There has been a significant decline in crime in most cities and states in America. But most of that drop appears due to the lower number of drug and alcohol abusers and addicts on the street, an assessment shared by many street ethnographers who survey conditions by talking to Noun 1. talking to - a lengthy rebuke; "a good lecture was my father's idea of discipline"; "the teacher gave him a talking to"
rebuke, reprehension, reprimand, reproof, reproval - an act or expression of criticism and censure; "he had to police, drug dealers, and addicts. In turn this decrease is also due to the increased numbers of substance abusers behind bars, thanks to stepped-up law enforcement and more prison sentences.
But, politicians beware. Though you've put lots more drug and alcohol addicts and abusers in prison, they will be coming out, sooner than you think. Thus, a critical component of sustaining this lower crime rate is to get as many of these incarcerated addicts and abusers as possible in recovery. Indeed, failure to do so will be the greatest missed opportunity to continue to drive the crime rate down and enter the next millennium with enhanced public safety.
Putting resources behind the rhetoric of rehabilitation in the 1990s requires a sea change in the way Americans think about prisoners and prisons. It will also call for a genuine display of courage from our nation's political leaders to convince citizens to invest tax dollars in the treating, educating and training of offenders. Drug Czar The term Drug Czar is an informal title that can mean: United States
Between 1973 and 1988, several ad hoc executive positions were established that the press termed "Drug Czar". General Barry McCaffrey has begun to provide some cover to our politicians. Building on the report of The National Center On Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America's Prison Population, McCaffrey called a conference of treatment experts in Washington to produce a consensus on the effectiveness of treatment and training in prisons. He plans a conference of state legislators and others to promote the idea of treating drug and alcohol addicts who commit crimes. Politicians who want to further reduce crime and the costs of incarceration would do well to take McCaffrey's political cover to convince citizens that treating and training substance abusing offenders is not coddling In cooking, to coddle food is to heat it in water kept just below the boiling point.
The eggs added to a Caesar salad should ideally be coddled. However, coddled eggs are not fully cooked and still present a salmonella risk. criminals; it is opening a second front in the war on crime for their own protection.
If Christian compassion won't move our citizens to invest the resources needed to rehabilitate drug and alcohol abusing offenders, then maybe the realization that they are protecting their own lives and property will. By opening in the nation's prisons a second front in the war on crime, we will save billions of dollars, make our streets and homes a lot safer and reclaim thousands of individuals to lives as responsible parents, hard workers, taxpayers, and law-abiding citizens.
JOSEPH A. CALIFANO JR. is president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.