A few weeks ago, OSI announced the Public Safety Compact, a new initiative that will help 250 prisoners overcome their addictions. This is certainly a welcome step forward, but what has taken everyone so long?
Everyone knows that it’s stupid and unreasonable to do the same thing over and over and expect different results, yet we continue to do this every day with our prison system.
We know that most of our prisoners are addicts, yet we contain them with no access to treatment in facilities where they continue to abuse drugs and harm themselves. Then we release them and expect them to be fully rehabilitated. How can we be so stupid? How can we, as intelligent people, sit on the sidelines and watch our tax dollars wasted this way every year? Why aren’t we outraged?
While the cost in fiscal capital is enormous, the cost in human capital is incalculable. Every year, thousands of families are torn apart and destroyed by addiction, yet the numbers continue to swell. More prisons, more jails, more detention centers, and more ruined lives; round-and-round the merry-go-round goes. When we will make it stop?
Treatment works. Research shows that the longer an addict is treated, the better chance he or she has for recovery. What better guarantee is there for someone to complete a treatment program than incarceration? Why aren’t NA and AA thriving in our prisons? Why isn’t there at least one chapter in every single facility? These groups cost little if anything to get off the ground. All that’s required is time for meetings, and a safe, private environment that promotes peer interaction.
Everyone talks about addiction killing our city, and they’re right. Addiction and its related illnesses are destroying Baltimore and cities throughout the United States. But providing access to quality treatment for inmates is only part of the solution.
We are well into the 21st century and our world is changing at an extraordinary pace, in remarkable ways. Yet when it comes to the interrelated topics of mental illness, addiction and imprisonment, nothing much has changed at all. OSI’s recent announcement about the Public Safety Compact suggests that the large increase in prison population over the last 25 years is due largely to drug-related offenses and addiction. What are we waiting for?