As opiate and heroin addiction continues to evolve into an epidemic in the U.S., federal prisons are failing to help inmates dealing with these increasingly common dependencies. Many addicts in prison find that their issues with drugs become worse throughout serving their sentence as they are still able to obtain narcotics and are not getting proper assistance for their problem.
Recent reports show that 65 percent of prison inmates in the U.S. meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and addiction while only 11 percent have received treatment for their addictions. Hundreds of thousands of inmates have histories of substance abuse and were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of committing their crimes, admitting their offenses were committed in order to buy drugs or have been incarcerated for an alcohol or drug violation.
With so many crimes connected to drug abuse it is surprising that there has been no progress in reducing the numbers of inmates with addiction problems.
Rampant Drug Addiction for Prisoners
Drug or alcohol addiction appears to be a factor in the majority of crimes for inmates serving a prison sentence. Intoxication is a significant factor in 78 percent of violent crimes, 83 percent of property crimes and 77 percent of public order, immigration or weapons offenses. Overall about 85 percent of the nation's prison population has some kind of substance abuse involved in their crimes.
Most prisoners with substance abuse problems like opiate addiction deal with intense cravings. While many prisons offer a treatment program and drug addiction classes for inmates coping with dependencies, the federal Bureau of Prisons Officials do not allow prisoners to take helpful medications like Suboxone to block their cravings. Even inmates that had been on this medication previously before being incarcerated are not allowed to continue receiving any type of medication-assisted therapies.
As part of their policy, the Bureau of Prisons does not provide buprenorphine, methadone or any other similar type of medication to its inmates no matter what their individual needs may require. This policy has had disastrous consequences on the nearly 15 percent of inmates that have a history of heroin addiction.
Lack of Adequate Treatment Keeps Prisoners Addicted
For many of the inmates suffering from drug addiction, they are not able to recover from their problem while in prison and often their substance abuse becomes much worse. Inmates can find narcotics in prison through the help of other prisoners and can easily continue their abuse while serving their sentence.
The situation is especially hard for prisoners with an opioid dependency which is a chronic, relapsing disease that is difficult to end without the necessary assistance. The Bureau of Prisons has admitted that their policy on banning medication-assisted therapies for opiate addiction has been unsuccessfully and even caused negative outcomes for many prisoners.
While the BOP offers drug treatment programs for inmates with opiate addictions, they spend millions of dollars on outdated, ineffective approaches that fail to help prisoners recover. Even after completing the program, most inmates end up returning to society just as addicted as they were when they were first put in jail.
Inmates struggling with drug addictions are more likely to end up back in jail even after completing their sentence. If the prison system is failing to rehabilitate its prisoners then it is not effectively preparing them to return as functioning members of society. People who are still suffering from heroin addictions because they were not provided with medication-assisted treatment will find it difficult to avoid committing more crimes once they have been released from prison.
More needs to be done to reform federal prisons' drug treatment programs in order to make progress in reducing the number of inmates with substance abuse problems throughout the nation.