As of March 2020, there are 2.3 million people incarcerated in America. Many of these inmates experience issues with substance abuse or addiction, with an estimated half of state and federal prisoners abusing or addicted to drugs. Addiction often fuels dangerous and self-destructive behaviors that can lead to incarceration, while incarceration provides opportunities to keep using. It becomes a vicious cycle that is very difficult to ever get out of once you’ve been entangled in the system. While these facts present a sobering conversation on prison reform in our country, it is important to also recognize that there is a silver lining; incarceration can also present opportunities for treatment.
Incarceration Rates and Addiction
Of the 2.3 million people currently imprisoned in the US, 1.5 are reported to have substance abuse disorder, while 458,000 have a history of substance abuse or were under the influence of a substance while committing their crime or crimes. These statistics show that not only is addiction a catalyst for criminal activity, but it is also a consistent problem within our prison system.
Drugs and alcohol often lead people to commit crimes that they wouldn’t if they were of sound mind. Furthermore, an inmate with a substance addiction is far more likely to be a repeat offender and to make a living through illegal activities. Despite consequences such as parole revocation, re-incarceration, and other threats issued through the judicial system upon a person’s release from prison, they are often not deterred from using substances, largely because only 20% receive formal treatment when inside.
Jail Time for Substance-Related Crimes Differs Per State
Incarceration for substance-related offenses differs on a state level due to varying legal policy. Each state creates its own drug penalties, which determine imprisonment length and level. Louisiana has the highest number of drug-related imprisonments, while Massachusetts currently boasts the lowest. With the current opioid epidemic affecting the entire country, there has been a steady influx of arrests in an effort to curtail drug use. After a Pew study to determine whether this was making a positive impact, however, it was determined that higher rates of imprisonment do not translate to lower rates of drug use.
In the past few years, states have done their part in trying to revise their drug policies and penalties in an effort to reduce overpopulation in prisons. South Carolina, Michigan, New York, and Rhode Island have all decreased their drug sentences, and saw their crime rates decline. As more states follow suit, such as Texas, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alaska, and Maryland, states save millions of taxpayer dollars and keep the prison numbers lower. Alternative strategies—such as drug court and rehabilitation programs involving therapy and medication—prove to be far more effective in long term abstinence of those with substance abuse problems and criminal activity.
What this means is that the threat of imprisonment is not effective in combating addiction—it does not cause offenders to stop using drugs or being involved with them in some capacity. Other measures, such as treatment programs and rehabilitation efforts, have higher rates of success in leading individuals to lead a healthier, law-abiding life in the long run.
Race, Gender, and Addiction in Incarcerated Individuals
Struggles with addiction and incarceration do not fall on all demographics equally, with race and gender playing a significant role. Research has found that African Americans have more success with sobriety than the general population, but experience more severe health consequences related to addiction, along with more disparities in drug-related imprisonments. Gender comes into play as well, with the number of incarcerated women having quadrupled over the last 20 years, though in general, men are more likely to have a substance use disorder.
Treating Incarcerated Addicts
There are plenty of challenges in treating incarcerated individuals. The environment ordinarily found in a prison is not one that offers the sensitivity needed to address the common root causes of addiction, which is primarily trauma, depression, and anxiety. Incarcerated individuals with co-occurring mental disorders that often come hand-in-hand with addiction find their conditions are often ignored in a prison setting.
The mental state of an imprisoned individual can be compounded by general feelings of hopelessness related to incarceration, a prison culture that encourages dangerous behaviors like substance abuse, and other identity-specific issues. Treatments for addiction in prisons vary, and there are often waiting lists to get into the program. Typically, these programs include individual or group counseling, cognitive programs, specialty groups based on specific life experiences, and educational training, among others. If the funding and resources are there, 12-step and similar recovery groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, can be indispensable in providing a supportive community and safe environment for recovering individuals post-incarceration.
Addiction Treatment at Granite Recovery Centers
Addiction can often lead to the sort of dangerous and illegal behavior that damages lives, whether in the form of incarceration, severe health issues, or great financial and social costs. Treatment at a drug rehab center can be an alternative to incarceration for some. For others, seeking recovery care post-incarceration can be one of the best ways to get one’s life back on track and avoid the sorts of behaviors and situations that led to criminal activity in the first place.
Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers numerous levels of drug rehab, from medically-supervised detox to inpatient drug rehab programs to sober living. Our programs utilize a unique blend of 12-step work and individualized care to help you or your loved one achieve a happier life of sustained recovery. We’d be happy to discuss your individual circumstances or any additional questions you might have. Please give our Admissions specialists a call today.