As the Kansas Department of Corrections emphasizes efforts to help thousands of parolees succeed after release from prison, it is funding substance abuse treatment for only a small fraction of them, reports the Wichita Eagle. About two-thirds of offenders have a history of substance abuse, but the department has provided no money for community-based treatment for two budget years in a row. Substance abuse — one of the biggest problems among offenders and a threat to public safety — is receiving some of the least funding from the department at a time when the investment might count the most, experts say.
As of last week, there were 5,621 parolees statewide and the numbers are generally rising, because parolees are being sent back to prison at a lower rate even when they repeatedly violate conditions of their parole, including the prohibition against drug use. Peter Ninemire spent 10 years in federal prison for marijuana cultivation, then went on to earn a master’s degree and now works as a substance abuse counselor in Wichita, said some people think treating parolees’ drug and alcohol addictions is soft on crime when in fact it is “the best anti-crime tool that we have.” The governor’s office is proposing the first significant funding increase for treatment in years. Many parolees have difficulty getting and maintaining jobs. Even paying a $20 treatment fee can be difficult for them, Ninemire said.