Big Expansion Of Prison Drug Treatment Could Cut Crime


A “massive expansion” of drug treatment in prisons could help cut crime, former White House drug policy official Robert Weiner and associate Richard Bangs argue in the Buffalo News. Only 14 percent of federal inmates who meet the criteria for drug dependency receive treatment from a trained professional, say Weiner and Bangs; only 39 percent of all drug-dependent inmates participate in a drug abuse program. Federal drug-fighting initiatives have been cut 34 percent since 2001, from $19.2 billion to $12.7 billion.

Treatment can work, Weiner and Bangs say. The National Institute on Drug Abuse Treatment Outcomes Study says, “Methadone treatment reduced patients’ heroin abuse by 70 percent, their criminal activity by 57 percent and increased their full-time employment by 24 percent.” There are only six prison methadone programs in the U.S.–in New York City, Baltimore, Providence, Orlando, Seattle, and Albuquerque. Regarding treatment’s economic benefits, the National Institute of Drug Abuse says, “Every $1 invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs and theft alone. When savings related to health care are included, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.”


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