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Chemical Dependency In Our Prison System - Part Two

This is part two of our two-part series on the problems of drug addictions and prison sentencing.

In part one of our series, we discussed the State of Colorado's prison system and the legislative debate over whether to open a shuttered prison due to the burgeoning inmate population. In part two, we will discuss national statistics. 

Substance abuse and chemical dependency are no longer the problems of a select few individuals who fell into the wrong crowd at a vulnerable time in their lives. Addiction is a life-threatening condition that impacts people of every socioeconomic status. As medical professionals and mental health experts begin to understand the realities of chemical dependency, they are noticing that many prisoners who are incarcerated have been or currently are addicted to illicit substances.

The reality of chemical dependency and the prison population: data and statistics related to drug use

Mirroring Colorado, the U.S. prison population continues to climb year after year, which is both a social and financial burden for local, state and federal governmental bodies. When the data is evaluated, it's startling to see the impact that drug use and chemical dependency has on the prison population. These statistics shed light on the topic:

  • Approximately 85 percent of the prison population has had or currently has a history of chemical dependency or substance abuse. Currently, there are more than 2.3 million inmates across the country, according to HomeHealthTesting.com.
  • About 485,000 were incarcerated due to a crime that was committed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or they were imprisoned as a result of buying or selling illicit drugs.
  • About 83 percent of property-related crimes involved drug use or drug sales, while about 78 percent of violent crimes involved drug use or drug sales. Drugs also played a role in about 77 percent of parole violations and 77 percent of crimes involving weapons.

Despite the fact that an overwhelming portion of the prison population has a history of chemical dependency, there is little being done about it within the prison system. Only about 11 percent of prisoners who are dependent on drugs or alcohol receive the treatment that they need to recover.

What is the solution?

The issue of chemical dependency is incredibly complex. The factors that contribute to an individual's level of addiction can vary from their upbringing and socioeconomic status to their physical and mental health. Noting the complexity of addiction and the fact that it can differ from one individual to the next, it's important to understand that there is no simple solution.

However, many believe that there is more that prison administrators and government officials can do to help. Studies have found that inmates who need and subsequently receive qualified treatment for their dependency are significantly less likely to resort to a life of crime after they are released. In fact, most states would see an economic benefit of more than $90,000 per inmate who is released and who has properly recovered from their addiction.

Several experts feel that the prison system should begin diagnosing and adequately treating those in their population who are suffering from substance abuse disorders. 

Have you been accused of a crime? 

Unfortunately, far too many people who are convicted of minor drug-related crimes are facing harsh sentences in a prison system that will do little to help them succeed. If you have been accused of a crime, contact us today. We will be your advocate.

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