Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Of the 2.3 million inmates in the U.S., more than half have a history of substance abuse and addiction, says Newsweek. Not all those inmates are imprisoned on drug-related charges (although drug arrests have been rising steadily since the early 1990s; there were nearly 200,000 in 2007). Josiah Rich, a professor of medicine and community health at Brown University, is worried that, by refusing or neglecting to provide treatment to these addicts, many U.S. prisons are missing the best chance to cure them—and in the process to cut down on future crime.

Treatment can reduce recidivism rates from 50 percent to something more like 20 percent, yet it is not widely provided. “Our system has taken the highest-risk and most ill people and put them in a place where they have constitutionally mandated health care,“ Rich says. “What a great opportunity to make a difference. Are we just trying to punish people? Or are we trying to rehabilitate people? What do we want out of this?” The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that just one fifth of inmates get some form of treatment. That number may be lower in the near future: tight budgets are forcing many states to reduce or close existing treatment programs. Kansas and Pennsylvania have already done so; California and Texas may may follow suit.


Are Prisons Really Dangerous Places to Work?

by Stan Moody

June 21, 2010 @ 01:17PM PT
Topics: Prison Reform

What do you think the most dangerous job in America is? If you answered 'being a prison guard,' you'd be wrong. Though the corrections industry has sold the public on the danger of being a prison guard, the truth is that prisons are crushingly boring places.

That's because they're designed to be efficient, unchanging systems that maintain order while both staff and prisoners do their time. (That might explain prison guards' high rate of addiction and divorce.)

I should know — until recently, I worked as a chaplain in a Maine prison.

During a recent interview, I was asked if I thought the spate of deaths within Maine's solitary prison cells (three within the past year) would prompt future reforms. My answer was a categorical “No.” Unfortunately, the public has already spoken. Mental hospitals have largely been closed, leaving psychiatric wards, jails and prisons as the remaining option for many in need. Meanwhile, thanks to urban renewal, those without mental, financial or family resources to defend themselves have been rendered disposable.

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