Maryland spends far more on sending drug offenders to prison than to treatment programs despite a high-profile bid by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to reverse that trend, says the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Policy Institute, the Washington Post reports. An institute study said the state has made “slow progress” in diverting nonviolent offenders from jail and prison. For each dollar spent to put them behind bars, the state provided 26 cents through its Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration to treat drug-dependent adults referred by the criminal justice system, the report estimated. “We can afford to treat people,” said report author Kevin Pranis. “The resources are being misspent.”
The number of people admitted to drug treatment through court referral rose 28 percent between 2000 and 2004, while the number of people sentenced to prison for drug offenses fell by 7 percent. Some advocates fear that ground has been lost since Ehrlich took office in 2003. The state has emphasized treating inmates while they are in prison rather than in the community through an Ehrlich program dubbed Project RESTART. Ehrlich announced RESTART in 2003 to help inmates with their addictions before they are released, and he has often mentioned it during his reelection campaign. The program has been slow to take off.