Oregon could save substantial money if it treated high-risk criminal offenders for substance abuse, but instead cash-strapped counties allow roughly half of those offenders to go untreated, says a state audit reported by The Oregonian. Auditors estimate if all high-risk offenders in Oregon received drug treatment, state programs and crime victims would have saved $21.6 million between 2008 and 2011.
The audit found help for county budgets, too, suggesting that under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid could cover the cost of drug treatment. The report’s release comes as a national wave of efforts by groups on the left and right aim to reduce the cost of the prison system by reducing former inmate re-offending. This year, Oregon lawmakers passed a package of public safety reforms that will flat-line state prison growth for five years. “If you want to really control prison costs, you have to go after the causes that put people in prison in the first place,” said Dwight Holton, former U.S. attorney for Oregon.