Certified National Drug & Alcohol Interventionists

Treatment for Offenders with Substance Involved Crimes

We have some questions we would like you to ponder and some facts we would like to share: 80 percent or more of all adult and juvenile offenders were arrested or incarcerated for crimes linked to substance use or addiction; 66 percent of adult inmates and 44 percent of juveniles arrested meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol or other drug abuse and addiction. How would you like your loved one to be look at if they were to become part of “the system”? As a common criminal or a person, one that may need treatment. That is not to say that EVERY offender fits in the specific category we are currently discussing. And I do feel that there are consequences to our actions. But the fact is a large majority of offenders would never see the inside of a cold holding cell or jail cell if it weren’t for the moral compromises addiction causes us, addicts to make. I am not making excuses for addicts or substance abusers, but it is a fact…It was for me. However, our system continues to lump non-violent offenders with substance abuse problems into the same category, as well as the same jails and prisons as offenders with noted violent pasts and crimes. However, our system will contend that they do offer treatment. Personally, I have seen firsthand what some jails consider “treatment” and what they offer is so far below the bar of what would be considered even close to quality treatment. If it wasn’t so appalling it would be laughable. It is time for changes within our judicial system. Addicts have died while “in the care” of this system which fails those with the disease of addiction every day!

In 2005, federal, state and local governments spent $74 billion on incarceration, court proceedings, probation and parole for substance-involved adult and juvenile offenders. In contrast, these governments spent less than one percent of that amount –$632 million–on prevention and treatment for those offenders. Only 11 percent of adult inmates with substance use disorders and less than 4 percent of substance involved juvenile offenders receive ANY type of treatment during incarceration; few of those receive evidence-based care. Without treatment, the odds are considerably high that substance-involved offenders will end up back in prison, continuing to increase recidivism, therefore adding to the problem and to taking more money from taxpayers. And we must also recognize the ramifications of releasing untreated addicts or substance users. Some will seek help, however most will become discouraged quickly….whether it be their inability to find gainful employment or when old vices are within their reach and they have not been given the tools to deal with these issues in a healthy manner. Therefore, before they realize it old behaviors are back in action and they could be living in our neighborhoods and committing crimes that never have to happen. The fact is, Treatment Works! There are many different kinds of treatment and different models work better for different people. But nonetheless, compassion, peer-to-peer counselling, and understanding can make anyone a better person and all of this is part of the treatment process.

Now what does this mean for those who are just interested in how their tax dollars are being spent? Evidence shows that for every dollar spent on treatment taxpayers would save $12 dollars in reduced substance-related crime and criminal justice and health care costs. More importantly we would be treating their primary disease and allowing offenders to re-enter society as productive members, not burdens to their communities. Addiction is a disease. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University- Behind Bars 11: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population casacolumbia.org released February 2010. Please help in making treatment available to all those who so desperately need it and stop the vicious cycle of recidivism. The research has been done; the evidence is there. The disease of addiction effects the whole family. With your help we can STOP the vicious cycle of addiction, and start saving lives instead of destroying them!

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Thanks to our followers and friends for their continued support! Great changes happen one person, one family at a time…

Sincerest Regards,
Kelli & Nick Athas

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