Study Finds 65 Percent of Inmates Meet Criteria For Addiction But Only 11 Percent Receive Treatment

Of the 2.3 million inmates in prison or jail in the United States, 1.5 million meet the DSM IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction. An additional 458,000 had histories of substance abuse; were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of their crime; committed their offense to get money to buy drugs; were incarcerated for an alcohol or drug law violation; or shared some combination of these characteristics, according to Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population. Combined these two groups constitute 85 percent of the U.S. prison population.

The new 144-page report released on Friday by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University also reveals that alcohol and other drugs are significant factors in all crime. In 2006, alcohol and other drugs were involved in these inmate offenses:
78 percent of violent crimes;
83 percent of property crimes; and
77 percent of public order, immigration or weapon offenses; and probation/parole violations.

Despite these high rates, the CASA report found that only 11 percent of all inmates with substance abuse and addiction disorders receive any treatment during their incarceration. The report found that if all inmates who needed treatment and aftercare received such services, the nation would break even in a year if just over 10 percent remained substance and crime free and employed. Thereafter, for each inmate who remained sober, employed and crime free the nation would reap an economic benefit of $90,953 per year.

“States complain mightily about their rising prison costs; yet they continue to hemorrhage public funds that could be saved if they provided treatment to inmates with alcohol and other drug problems and stepped up use of drug courts and prosecutorial drug treatment alternative programs,” said Susan E. Foster, CASA’s Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis.

The report also noted that in 2005, federal, state and local governments spent $74 billion on incarceration, court proceedings, probation and parole for substance-involved adult and juvenile offenders and less than one percent of that amount—$632 million—on prevention and treatment for them.

Twelve years ago, CASA released Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population. CASA prepared this report to see if any progress had been made in reducing the number of substance-involved offenders behind bars and to examine and identify promising practices for cost-effective investments. To conduct this study, CASA researchers analyzed data on inmates from 11 federal sources, reviewed more than 650 articles and other publications, examined best practices in prevention and treatment for substance-involved offenders, reviewed accreditation standards and analyzed costs and benefits of treatment.

The CASA report also found that compared to non-substance involved inmates, substance-involved inmates are not only likelier to be re-incarcerated, begin their criminal careers at an early age, and have more contacts with the criminal justice system, but they are also:
Four times likelier to receive income through illegal activity;
Twice as likely to have had at least one parent who abused alcohol or other drugs when they were children;
41 percent likelier to have some family criminal history;
29 percent less likely to have completed at least high school; and
20 percent likelier to be unemployed a month before incarceration.

Click here to read CASA’s full news release on the report.

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