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Prisons ill-equipped to rehabilitate drug addicts

Imagine intentionally hurting and poisoning your body multiple times a day. Lying to loved ones and stealing from friends all to support an insatiable physical need. For thousands of drug addicts across the United State, this is their everyday reality. For many, their rock bottom is realized when they are arrested and face drug charges and incarceration.

In Virginia individuals arrested for possession of drugs including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and prescription drugs face hefty fines and mandatory prison sentences. Many of these individuals, however, would be far better served by going to a drug treatment facility rather than a six by eight foot prison cell.

Drug abuse and rehabilitation programs are available for individuals convicted of drug crimes. Unfortunately, there are long waiting lists for these programs. As a result, many individuals who are struggling with addiction serve their sentences and are released from prison in the same or worse condition than when they entered.

For many of these individuals, shunned by family and friends, the added stigma of having a police record is often enough to cause them to spiral even deeper into their addiction. While prison system officials admit the system needs to address the long wait times for drug abuse programs, more than 50,000 inmates are currently on waiting lists for such programs. This is an astounding number, especially considering that only roughly 32,000 are currently enrolled in such programs.

Recognizing that incarceration is not the best solution for the majority of individuals who are struggling with drug addiction, many states are currently exploring alternative treatment options. Individuals who are struggling with drug addiction and facing prison time should consult with a skilled defense attorney.

Source: USA Today, "Prisoners face long wait for drug-rehab services," Kevin Johnson, Dec. 4, 2012

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