When John Patrick Barton was in prison on his third drunken driving conviction, he got no alcohol or drug treatment, says the Associated Press. Fifteen months later, he is accused of plowing his car into another, killing a woman and her teenage daughter in a Dallas suburb on Easter. Texas officials have proposed slashing more than $23 million from in-prison treatment programs. These types of programs – many already stretched thin – are endangered as shrinking budgets force several states to consider cuts to treatment for drug users, drunken drivers, and sex offenders.
Studies have shown offenders with substance abuse problems are more likely to return to prison without treatment. Yet only 11 percent of the nation’s inmates with substance abuse problems receive treatment, says the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. In Kansas, budget cuts have gutted the system’s treatment and support services. In Pennsylvania, reductions to alcohol-treatment programs have created a backlog of inmates waiting for drug and alcohol counseling required before receiving parole. The number of inmates receiving treatment for substance abuse in California has dropped. Bob May of the Association of State Correctional Administrators said prison systems nationwide are eliminating treatment programs because of budget constraints.