Something I Said - CD Treatment for Prisoners
Dwight Hobbes
MN Spokesman-Recorder

    Here's a news flash, a lot of men and women locked up behind bars are
 chemically dependent -- addicts, alcoholics or both. And, guess what?
 Booze and dope routinely are huge factors in folk breaking the law.
 Doesn't come as a surprise?  Well, you'd think it was news the way
 prisons have treated these people.  Rather, failed to treat them.
 You'd think it was a radical, overlooked concept instead of widespread
 common knowledge.

    The criminal justice and penal systems -- let's just do a reality
 check -- are supposed to be about more than simply catching criminals
 to punish them and keep everyone else safe from them.  Right?  The
 idea behind penitentiaries -- they're even called correctional
 institutions -- isn't apprehension for the sake of warehousing.  It's
 supposed to be about rehabilitation.  Well, that's the company line,
 anyway.  It may as well be nothing more than a rumor so far as doing
 anything about inmates with substance abuse problems go.

      The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at
 Columbia University reports that more than half -- 65% of everyone
 incarcerated in this country (that's 1.5 million out of 2.3 million)
 meet the American Medical Association's criteria as suffering the
 disease of addiction to drink or other substances.  CASA also reports
 that less than one-sixth, 11% are treated for this chronic behavioral
 illness that is as debilitating as cancer and farther reaching in its
 impact, destroying sufferers and, like a plague of contagion, wreaking
 hell on those with whom sufferers comes in contact -- from friends and
 family to crime victims to tax-payers funding federal pens.

     How about some statics?  Everybody loves stats, as if they are
 necessary to validate common sense.    In 2006 alone, according to
 CASA, alcohol, meth, crack, etcetera were involved in offenses: 78% of
 violent crimes; 83% of property crimes; and 77% of those involving
 weapons those that were probation or parole violations.  You can make
 the knee-jerk judgment, Tough.  Too bad.  If they're dumb enough to
 commit illegal and self-destructive acts under the influence or in
 relation to substances, it's their hard cheese.  They should've just
 said, "No."  If you don't realize how much easier that's said than
 done, put his down and go read something else.  Something like Only
 Bad And Stupid People Do Bad And Stupid Things.

    A glaring truth is that, while chemical dependency treatment
 doesn't guarantee recovery from the disease, it does work. Vastly
 effective has been the self-help organization Alcoholics Anonymous,
 part and parcel of countless successful treatment regimen on record.
 Sorry, you're not going to find stats to back that up, because AA
 doesn't keep tabs on its members.  If you can tell your elbow from a
 hot rock, though, you know that nothing stays around more than a
 half-century without having earned its keep.  AA would not have lasted
 this long, much less continued to grow, spawning such successful
 offshoots as Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and more if it
 didn't work.  You don't need a spreadsheet to figure that out.

    The plain and simple fact is that, by and large, bigshots who run
 prisons don't give a damn about treating chemical dependency among
 inmates.  Junkies and drunks aren't returning to these well-to-do
 folk's communities with a harder time than ever of finding legal
 employment, subject to the people-places-and-things pressure to pick
 up right where they left off at, breaking the law by getting high,
 breaking the law to get their hands on some get-high and being stones
 around the necks of their families, friends and neighbors, not to
 mention their own worst enemies.

    In fact, people running these places parasitically reap a benefit
 from the relapse of alchies and dope fiends who get cycled through the
 revolving door of recidivism.  Each warm body that gets released, hits
 the bricks, doesn't keep his or her nose clean and gets locked up
 again isn't a human being to them, but the means to keep prison
 personnel employed.

    God knows, criminals don't deserve inordinate consideration.  When
 they're sick, though, it is only humane to afford such treatment as
 can doing something about their disease.  For their sake and,
 importantly, for the sake of those in society they will be around once
 they are freed.  To ignore this, to overlook it, to just turn a blind
 eye and deaf ear is, itself, yes, a crime.
 Against inmates and
 against the public.