Kentucky Study Establishes That Prison Drug Treatment Reduces Recidivism


An estimated 80 percent of people in U.S. prisons have substance abuse problems, but they are far less likely to return to jail if they receive treatment while behind bars, show Kentucky data reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal. Typically, 30 percent of Kentucky inmates with substance abuse problems return to custody, says the Kentucky Department of Corrections. But a 2011 University of Kentucky study showed that number drops to 20 percent among inmates who receive substance abuse treatment.

Officials are zeroing in on those numbers as they work to reduce the number of prisoners, an effort designed both to cut state spending and return people to productive, law-abiding lives. The state has budgeted $7 million this fiscal year, up from $1.1 million six years ago, to provide treatment to help inmates address the addictions that led many of them to prison in the first place. “Investing in treatment programs is absolutely a prudent use of resources,” said Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown. Even if prisoners stay away from contraband drugs while incarcerated, without treatment they are at risk to resume abusing drugs once they get out. For many, prison programs offer a chance for treatment they'd never get on the outside. The study showed that participants in jail-based treatment cut drug use 60 percent after release, and those in prison-based treatment cut it by 54 percent.

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