8 Major Problems with Drug Treatment in Prison


“It’s a proven fact that prison doesn’t do anything for drug addiction — nothing. Then when they come back they’re recidivists. If you say prison is for punishment, fine. But if you say it’s so people don’t come back then you’ve got to do something so they don’t come back.”

Keri Blakinger

Drug offenders have among the highest recidivism rates of all prisoners. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 76.9% of drug offenders get arrested for a new crime within five years of their release. That’s a lower recidivism rate than for property crimes (82.1%) but higher than for public order offenses (73.6%) or violent offenses (71.3%).

Although jails typically don’t offer drug treatment, many state prisons do—but the above data is for state prisons. So what’s going wrong? Why isn’t prison drug treatment working?

There’s no easy answer to that question. However, a prison drug counselor, a drug policy expert, and two former inmates did their best to answer it by offering to identify what they see as some of the current problems with prison drug treatment:

1. Treatment is not offered soon enough.

Many county jails don’t offer any treatment, so inmates typically have to wait until they get…

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