Treatment vs. incarceration: U.S. officials debate handling of drug offenses
By Ana Francisca Vega
El Economista, Mexico City
December 18, 2009
WASHINGTON -- He had agreed to give me a tour of the streets here on
the condition that I not reveal his name. To do so could cause
problems with his superiors and co-workers at the police department.
I consented. No one, I had been told, knew more than he did about how
drug dealers operate in the U.S. capital.
It was getting dark when we got into the vehicle and set off on our
tour. "Turn at the corner," he said, "and you'll see." As if by
magic, a group of people materialized before us. "Dealers," he said.
"Heroin, but also cocaine and probably marijuana." That scene played
out at least 30 times in the three hours we spent crisscrossing the
"Now turn left on this street. . . . Oh! Look at him. They call him
'Bobo,' and he's a lucky man. He must have just gotten out of
prison," he said with a mixture of disbelief and anger.
"Don't you find it frustrating to know that no sooner than are they
arrested, most of them are right back on the streets doing exactly
the same thing?" I asked.
The officer was silent for a few seconds, as if searching for the
right answer. Then, "I'm not Superman," he replied. "They do their
job and I do mine. . . . I've known some of them for so long that
they respect me. They see me as an authority figure. I've watched a
lot of them grow up.
"Look behind you," he said, as we watched the goings-on at one of the
open-air drug markets. I turned my head and there, less than five
minutes away, was the dome of the Capitol. There were other drug
markets near the campus of Howard University Hospital and near
Washington's recently built convention center.
A few days later, as I was interviewing Inspector Brian Bray,
commanding officer of the D.C. police's Narcotics and Special
Investigations Division, one of his officers entered the room.
Visibly pleased, the two men shared impressions about the preceding
night. "We confiscated eight weapons," Bray said. I repeated my
earlier question to the undercover officer: Isn't it frustrating to
know that the person you arrested yesterday will soon be released
and, true to form, will return to the streets to commit a crime? His
answer surprised me.
"You've got liberal judges, liberal juries that don't want to send
people to jail," he said. "A lot of times it's a revolving door. They
get ridiculously low sentences for hideous crimes."
"But isn't it a matter of the number of people arrested, rather than
the ideology of the judges and juries? How many people were arrested
in D.C. on drug charges last year?" I asked him.
"Around 10,000," he said, and, after thinking for a moment, added,
"yes, I guess you could say that. We don't have enough space for that
Bray's story plays out repeatedly across the United States, where
more than 30 percent of those incarcerated are serving sentences for
dealing, possessing or using drugs. For years, the authorities have
viewed widespread incarceration as the solution to drug trafficking
and consumption. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who recently proposed a
criminal justice reform initiative, said the number of people
incarcerated in the United States is 13 times higher than it was 25
years ago. The economic and social costs of incarceration -- with
many inmates who have no record of violent crime -- are staggering.
This situation might be about to change.
Ever since President Ronald Reagan declared the "war on drugs," U.S.
policy has focused on combating supply. Most of the country's
resources -- more than 60 percent -- have been allocated to
strengthen law enforcement, drug interdiction, crop eradication and
international cooperation programs such as the Merida Initiative in
Mexico and Plan Colombia. The rest is used for the treatment of drug
The number of addicts in the United States has been estimated at 23
million, with 7.6 million in need of treatment. And yet, "demand has
always been an afterthought of U.S. drug policy and its budget," said
John Walsh, drug trafficking expert for the liberal Washington Office
on Latin America, which promotes democracy and socioeconomic justice
in Latin America and the Caribbean.
A shift in emphasis or, to put it another way, the construction of a
more balanced drug policy, is taking place slowly but surely. The key
is in the cost. "Economic crisis oddly really plays a beneficial role
here because all the states are looking at the budgets," said Doug
Ierely, an aide to Webb. "It is making state officials reconsider
their budget priorities," he said. "They are thinking more about
evidence-based practices." The latter are mainly associated with
programs to reduce treatment and rehabilitation.
Perhaps inadvertently, budget constraints have revived the debate
between two divergent positions, with proponents of incarceration to
fight the drug problem on one side, and advocates of investing in
programs scientifically proven to be effective in reducing illegal
drug use on the other. The current state of the economy is like "the
perfect storm," said Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs for the
Drug Policy Alliance, one of the nongovernmental organizations most
active in promoting addiction treatment and decriminalization.
Because 90 percent of prisoners are held in local and state
penitentiaries, it is the states that have most resented the budget
crisis. At the state level, people are seeing the costs of a policy
"that locks up a lot of people and maybe doesn't do the best in terms
of helping provide treatment to people who are committing the crimes
or dealing drugs," said Walsh. "There is even bipartisan support for
thinking more seriously about it. So that has been a big boost for
In recent years, 13 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use
and others have reviewed -- and changed -- some of their drug laws,
New York, Kansas and Michigan notably among them. The District of
Columbia is considering establishing regulations for distributing
medical marijuana. And just a few months ago, California,
traditionally at the forefront of decriminalization and demand-
reduction policy initiatives, directed federal economic stimulus
funds -- specifically the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, an
important source of anti-drug funding -- to treatment programs.
In the California case, authorities had first intended to allocate
the stimulus money for law enforcement. But the Drug Policy Alliance
in California -- part of a network of groups that promote, among
other things, emphasis on treatment rather than incarceration --
persuaded state officials to allocate the funds differently. Margaret
Dooley-Sammuli, the group's deputy state director, said that if those
funds had been spent on law enforcement, the government would had to
have generated $160 million in additional revenue in 2010 to cover
the costs of incarcerated drug offenders. In the end, the $135
million in grant funds were spent on treatment.
Oregon officials decided to spend most of the stimulus money on a
program that offers rehabilitation options to people who have been
arrested on drug charges but have no prior records.
The economic crisis has exacerbated the already precarious fiscal
situation at the state level. The notion that a drug policy might
generate huge additional costs has led some state governments to opt
for a less expensive alternative. "For different reasons, some states
are coming to the same conclusions, " said Dooley-Sammuli of the
California Drug Policy Alliance. "We have to spend money differently."
The effects of the economic crisis on state budgets, coupled with
discomfort about high incarceration rates and the attendant economic
and social consequences, is spurring a change that, while often
silent, appears to be gaining momentum.
"There is an increasing unease in this country about the rates of
incarceration, and this could be capturing the zeitgeist and succeed.
It is hard to think of any other indicator in which we do so badly,"
said Peter Reuter, a criminology professor at the University of
Maryland, in the Washington suburbs.
This is not to say that the obstacles have been surmounted. The U.S.
government continues to use various means to pressure states into
reversing innovative or more balanced policies.
"In many ways, the federal government still discourages states from
trying new approaches. There are limits on what states can do in
terms of regulations if a federal law is in place," said Piper of the
Drug Policy Alliance. Yet the transformation seems to have begun.
In addition to budgetary pressures on the prison-centered approach,
other factors have become increasingly relevant in the search for a
more balanced drug policy. It is no coincidence, for example, that
four of five early health-reform proposals in Congress included
provisions on the right to addiction treatment.
"That is a big change," said Joseph A. Califano Jr., former secretary
of Health, Education and Welfare and founder of the National Center
on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York.
"The fact that we are recognizing that mental heath and substance
abuse treatment deserves to be treated the same way we treat physical
health problems is very important. That will have a significant
impact in terms of the way we deal with treatment."
More significant is the apparent acceptance of this approach. "It is
wonderful that there is no national debate. It means people have come
to accept it," said Reuter, the University of Maryland professor. "A
long time ago, I argued that drug policy would benefit from benign
Politicians are finding it less difficult to openly discuss the need
for a change as old paradigms begin to crumble. Asked about this in
the context of his criminal justice reform initiative, Sen. Webb
said, "I believe you should come to government with an eye toward
fixing problems. That's what leadership is. It's about thoroughly
thinking through the issue, educating and motivating people to care,
reaching out and engaging those from across the philosophical
spectrum, and be willing to accept accountability for the outcome."
In addition to Webb's initiative, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Dan
Burton (R-Ind.) have proposed creating a commission to review U.S.
drug policy in the Western Hemisphere, including demand reduction.
This initiative, which, like Webb's, faces several legislative
hurdles, is based on logic: Despite an investment of about $15
billion over the past two decades, the United States has failed to
significantly reduce drug supply or demand.
These recent shifts do not mean that ideology and criminalization are
no longer an important factor in U.S. policymaking on drugs. "Stigma
is a terrible, terrible problem. There is so much stigma and shame
attached to this, and many people still think of this as a criminal
issue," said Califano. What these shifts do indicate, however, is
that policymakers are finding less political risk associated with
advocating alternatives to incarceration -- such as addiction treatment.
Recent polls supported this view. According to Lake Research
Partners, 72 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Democrats and 72
percent of independents supported including addiction treatment in
any health reform bill. In addition, more than 60 percent of those
polled said they would be willing to pay $2 more a month in insurance
premiums for better addiction-treatment coverage.
Although not at the center of national debate, public opinion is
increasingly focused on the right of addicts to receive treatment
rather than a prison sentence. "Public knowledge of the problem has
slowly and silently changed. Now we know more about addictions and
about the best ways of reducing consumption. . . . We also know that
certain hard policies just don't work," said John Carnevale, a former
official of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Although drug policy at the state level has undergone significant,
though not always perceptible, changes in recent years, federal drug
policy has remained virtually unchanged. "Frozen" is the way Walsh,
the Latin affairs office analyst, put it. Since President Obama took
office, the White House has been sending positive signals. Early
indications will come when the White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy presents its first anti-drug strategy in February.
More emphasis on drug demand is forecast. "This Administration is
drafting a balanced national drug policy that focuses on law
enforcement, prevention and treatment. President Obama believes that
all three components are critical to this Administration' s efforts to
reducing the use of illegal drugs," according to the office. The
office has created the Demand Reduction Interagency Working Group and
has pledged to expand successful programs such as the drug courts.
The president's budget request next year could determine the fate of
the programs. We can say that the federal government seems to be
gradually buying into the underlying premise of Webb's initiative,
and those of Engel, Burton and the thousands of Americans who strive
daily to implement a more effective drug policy with a lower social
and human cost. In the end, it is not a matter of being "hard" on
crime just for the sake of it, but rather one of combating it more
Treatment vs. incarceration
Treat. Don't repeat
Help repeat offenders kick their addictions
Nov. 15, 2009
We call prisons and jails correctional facilities, but the truth
is, most of them do diddly-squat to correct inmates' tendency to
Consider substance-abuse treatment, one of the best ways to break
repeat offenders' criminal habits. Earlier this year, researchers at
the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that about half
half! of the 7.1 million Americans now locked up or on probation
have some sort of addiction. But only one in five of those addicts
receives effective treatment. That figure represents a horrible waste
of lives and of taxpayer money.
For every dollar that you spend on treatment of substance abuse in
the criminal justice system, it saves society on average four
dollars, NIDA director Nora Volkow told Scientific American in
January. Her review of the scientific literature showed that rehab
programs behind bars are good at keeping prisoners from returning to
drugs once they're back on the streets.
As an example, Volkow cited a prison program that treated heroin
addicts with methadone. Addicts who received that treatment were
seven times more likely than their unrehabbed peers to stay off
heroin after their release, and three times more likely not to commit
How are we doing locally? Recently, Chronicle reporter James
Pinkerton reported that the demand for drug treatment at the Harris
County Jail far outstrips the supply. We are not even close to
having enough resources, Leonard Kincaid, of the Council on Alcohol
and Drugs-Houston, told Pinkerton.
This year, hundreds of inmates have languished on the waiting list
for the jail's in-house addiction-treatment program. Matters are
arguably even bleaker for an addict outside of jail, on probation. It
can take up to 16 weeks to get into the county probation department's
residential treatment program.
In 16 weeks, an addict on the streets can find a lot of substances to
abuse, a lot of crimes to commit, a lot of trouble to get into. And
whether he ends up in the county emergency room or back in jail, the
taxpayer will pick up the tab.
It's not just humane to help substance abusers in jail or on
probation to clean up their acts. Long-term, it's cheaper, too.
Treat. Don't repeat
August 28, 2009
"Just keep grinnin' - We're winnin'!": Prosecutors debate the drug war
Texas prosecutors on a comment string titled "Just keep grinnin' - We're winnnin'!" have been engaged in one of the more frank discussions I've seen among working law enforcement types about the efficacy of the war on drugs. The string was begun with just a couple of comments in 2004, but then updated recently (new comments bring a thread up to the top of their user system) when Mexico acted recently to decriminalize small amounts of drugs.
Unsurprisingly, some prosecutors see Mexico's actions as waving a "white flag"; one of them suggesting that "this is a poor tribute to the hundreds of Mexican police and army members who have lost their lives in the fight to save their country."
But I was more interested to read the earliest comment on the sting from a Tarrant County prosecutor writing five years ago who lamented:
Sometimes it happens this way: I'm scratching out a plea on a case or revocation of one more dope defendant and the fear takes me. We are losing the "war on drugs." More than a decade ago, my father, a former prosecutor himself, told me that my job was to identify the truly bad actors and quarantine them from their prey. As to the rest? Keep them dogies rollin'. I'm not smart enough to know how to handle the drug problem but I can recognize what doesn't work and this is it. We cannot fill our prisons with dopers and allow the predators to roam free. In my view we shouldn't fill the prisons with dopers. And the small voice whispers,"If we did win the war on drugs what would you do all day?"
Nobody but Colorado County's Ken Sparks took the bait back in 2004. He replied:
When space is a problem, we all want to fill our prisons with violent offenders and not dopers. We have a mandated probation and treatment program for state jail possession cases. When they do not participate faithfully in treatment programs, what do you do? Sanctions with jail time, etc. should be employed. When violations continue, what then? One solution is to build more prisons. Perhaps the real solution (more money, again) is to have drug courts in every county. But it appears that drug courts are turning judges into glorified probation officers. I don't know the answer.
The more recent responses to Mexico's decriminalization of small drug amounts in 2009 drew some fairly predictable themes. 156th Judicial District Attorney Martha Warner out of Beeville recounted the story of a man in his 20s who sexually assaulted and threatened young kids and also provided them with marijuana. Having established conclusively through this anecdote that marijuana use leads directly to child molestation, Warner pronounces, "Drugs are very dangerous for our children!!!!!" Another commenter agreed, citing the case of a "rolling pharmacist" who it turned out had been "molesting his OWN daughter for the past 5-6 years."
An Assistant District Attorney out of Abilene pointed out the obvious fallacy in that reasoning: "I think the pedophiles in the examples above would use alcohol or other substances to groom their victims, if drugs weren't available." She further suggests:
We clearly are not going to win the War on Drugs, although we've created a multi-billion dollar bureaucracy.
I'd like to see California decriminalize and tax marijuana, so we could watch and see what happens to their economy. I've heard and read that marijuana is their largest cash crop.
Obviously, some drugs are horrible, and European countries have tried to register and legally dispense those which are terribly addictive.
Good luck to all of you who are criminal prosecutors, and doing the best you can. ...
Also, if we had taxes from drug users, we might actually be making money back from some of those who cost us all so much and now contribute nothing. (Pretty bleak outlook.)
Other prosecutors rejected the prospect of legalizing marijuana or any other presently illegal drug, including the DA Association's lobbyist Shannon Edmonds who thinks that "Full decriminalization will never happen here, IMO, so it's a waste of time talking about its merits/faults."
Check out the whole string for more prosecutors debating the drug war. I thought it was an interesting discussion.
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast
Labels: District Attorneys, drug policy
August 05, 2009
Waiting list for in-prison treatment gone for first time ever
The Austin Statesman reports on an important milestone in Texas' efforts to reduce prison overcrowding by expanding treatment and diversion programs ("After 15 years, waiting list ends for prison drug treatment programs," Aug. 5):
For the first time since the Texas prison system's substance-abuse treatment programs began nearly 15 years ago, amid controversy over their cost and effectiveness, programs have no waiting list, prison officials said Tuesday.
In years past, thousands of drug- and alcohol-addicted convicts had to wait for months in some cases years for space to open up in the treatment programs, filling prisons with felons who could have been paroled, and confounding a smooth transition of convicts from prisons to programs to parole.
But officials said that because the Legislature voted two years to ago greatly expand the treatment programs, the chronic backlog that had plagued them since their inception, at the behest of then-Gov. Ann Richards, is now gone. At the same time, the prison population has decreased slightly in recent months, part of a national trend.
This development will help further reduce prison overcrowding by allowing prisoners to complete requirements more quickly to qualify for parole, the Statesman reported:
Rissie Owens, chairwoman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the agency in past years had approved thousands of convicts for parole on the condition that they complete a treatment program, only to see them sit in prison for months even years because no space was available.
"We can actually vote them into a program now and have them get in," she said. "That's great."
Billed as the biggest shift for Texas corrections policy in years, the 2007 expansion of treatment programs by lawmakers greatly expanded the capacity of in-prison drug- and alcohol-treatment programs, opened transition treatment centers to help convicts succeed once they got out, expanded counseling and specialized drug-treatment programs, and opened lockups designed especially for habitual drunken drivers. The cost was more than $227 million.
In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry proposed building two medium-security prisons, but legislative leaders opted for expanding the treatment programs instead, despite some concern about whether the initiative would work. ...
State Rep. Jerry Madden, a Republican from Richardson who co-authored the 2007 legislation with Whitmire, said that having treatment beds available for convicts will mean that they can complete therapy programs before they are released from prison, giving them a better chance of success upon release. "This is exactly what we had in mind, where we wanted to be someday even though I'm somewhat surprised we got here so quickly," Madden said. "We know the history of the programs shows they work if they're done right."
Bottom line: Investing in drug and alcohol treatment instead of building more prisons was an inspired approach that's clearly working in Texas. I'm sure state Sen. John Whitmire, Rep. Jerry Madden, and other legislators who bet on this strategy are happy and relieved to see things working out the way they predicted - I know I am!
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast
Labels: drug policy, Parole, SAFP
After 15 years, waiting list ends for prison drug treatment programs
New facilities helped curtail backlog.
By Mike Ward
August 05, 2009
For the first time since the Texas prison system's substance-abuse
treatment programs began nearly 15 years ago, amid controversy over
their cost and effectiveness, programs have no waiting list, prison
officials said Tuesday.
In years past, thousands of drug- and alcohol-addicted convicts had
to wait for months in some cases years for space to open up in
the treatment programs, filling prisons with felons who could have
been paroled, and confounding a smooth transition of convicts from
prisons to programs to parole.
But officials said that because the Legislature voted two years to
ago greatly expand the treatment programs, the chronic backlog that
had plagued them since their inception, at the behest of then-Gov.
Ann Richards, is now gone. At the same time, the prison population
has decreased slightly in recent months, part of a national trend.
"It shows all the parts of our criminal justice system are working
together right now ... and that's the first time in 16 years that
I've been able to say that," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee
Chairman John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston who helped Richards
push the treatment programs through the Legislature in the early 1990s.
"This will go down as a very important day in the history of our
system," he said. "What it will mean for most Texans is it will
enhance public safety. If inmates can get the treatment they need,
when they need it, they will come out a better person than when they
It was not clear how long the absence of a waiting list would last.
Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice, said the waiting lists had dwindled until Friday, when all
major prison substance-abuse treatment programs caught up with demand
thanks in part to the recent opening of a 400-bed contract
treatment center in Burnet.
Another treatment center with 550 bunks is slated to open soon in the
East Texas city of Henderson, she said.
"There are a few inmates with special needs that may be waiting for a
day or so, but the backlog is gone for now," said Stuart Jenkins, the
state's parole director whose division of the prison system oversees
78,000 ex-convicts on parole. "It's good news, definitely."
Rissie Owens, chairwoman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,
said the agency in past years had approved thousands of convicts for
parole on the condition that they complete a treatment program, only
to see them sit in prison for months even years because no space
"We can actually vote them into a program now and have them get in,"
she said. "That's great."
Billed as the biggest shift for Texas corrections policy in years,
the 2007 expansion of treatment programs by lawmakers greatly
expanded the capacity of in-prison drug- and alcohol-treatment
programs, opened transition treatment centers to help convicts
succeed once they got out, expanded counseling and specialized drug-
treatment programs, and opened lockups designed especially for
habitual drunken drivers. The cost was more than $227 million.
In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry proposed building two medium-security
prisons, but legislative leaders opted for expanding the treatment
programs instead, despite some concern about whether the initiative
More controversial was the expansion of prison treatment programs in
the early 1990s by Richards, who touted her experience as a
recovering alcoholic. But owing to wary legislators and a tight
budget, many of the proposed 12,000 beds were never built and many
of those that were built were used to house regular convicts, not
those in treatment.
Budget red ink in 2003 cut those programs further.
State Rep. Jerry Madden, a Republican from Richardson who co-authored
the 2007 legislation with Whitmire, said that having treatment beds
available for convicts will mean that they can complete therapy
programs before they are released from prison, giving them a better
chance of success upon release. "This is exactly what we had in mind,
where we wanted to be someday even though I'm somewhat surprised we
got here so quickly," Madden said. "We know the history of the
programs shows they work if they're done right."
"I always thought I'd be a really old man before I saw this day come,
and I'm surprised it didn't take that long," said Whitmire, who turns
60 on Aug. 13.
After 15 years, waiting list ends for prison drug treatment programs
Drug Abusing Offenders Not Getting Treatment They Need in Criminal Justice System
By The National Institute on Drug Abuse
The vast majority of prisoners who could benefit from drug abuse treatment do not receive it, despite two decades of research that demonstrate its effectiveness, according to researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.In a report published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, NIDA scientists note that about half of all prisoners (including some sentenced for non-drug-related offenses) are dependent on drugs, yet less than 20 percent of inmates suffering from drug abuse or dependence receive formal treatment.
"Treating drug-abusing offenders improves public health and safety," said NIDA Director and report coauthor Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "In addition to the devastating social consequences for individuals and their families, drug abuse exacts serious health effects, including increased risk for infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C; and treatment for addiction can help prevent their spread.Providing drug abusers with treatment also makes it less likely that these abusers will return to the criminal justice system."
The authors of the report suggest that the criminal justice system is in a unique position to encourage drug abusers to enter and remain in treatment, thereby disrupting the vicious cycle of drug use and crime. In fact, most studies indicate that outcomes for those who are legally pressured to enter treatment are as good as or better than outcomes for those who enter treatment without legal pressure, the researchers note.
"Addiction is a stigmatized disease that the criminal justice system often fails to view as a medical condition; as a consequence, its treatment is not as available as it is for other medical conditions," stated Dr. Redonna K. Chandler, the report's principal author and chief of NIDA's Services Research Branch.
There are several ways in which drug abuse treatment can be incorporated into the criminal justice system. These include therapeutic alternatives to incarceration, treatment merged with judicial oversight in drug courts, treatments provided in prison and jail, and reentry programs to help offenders transition from incarceration back into the community.
Some communities cite costs as the reason for not treating drug-involved offenders; however, the report discusses the economic benefits of treating such offenders. "A dollar spent on drug courts saves about $4 in avoided costs of incarceration and health care; and prison-based treatment saves between $2 and $6," Chandler said.
The report emphasizes that addiction is a chronic brain disease: that repeated drug exposure in those who are vulnerable triggers brain changes that result in the compulsive drug use and loss of control over drug-related behaviors that characterize addiction. "Viewing addiction as a disease does not remove the responsibility of the individual," said Volkow. "It highlights the responsibility of the addicted person to get drug treatment and society's responsibility to make treatment available."
To learn more about the latest research on treatment for drug abusers in the criminal justice system, to download NIDA's Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations; Click HERE
NEW CASA* REPORT FINDS FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SPEND ALMOST HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND ADDICTION...
OF EVERY FEDERAL AND STATE DOLLAR SPENT, 96 CENTS GOES TO SHOVEL UP WRECKAGE OF ILLNESS, CRIME, SOCIAL ILLS; ONLY 2 CENTS GOES TO PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 28, 2009
Substance abuse and addiction cost federal, state and local governments at least $467.7 billion in 2005, according to Shoveling Up II: The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets, a new 287-page report released today by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
The CASA report found that of $373.9 billion in federal and state spending, 95.6 percent ($357.4 billion) went to shovel up the consequences and human wreckage of substance abuse and addiction; only 1.9 percent went to prevention and treatment, 0.4 percent to research, 1.4 percent to taxation and regulation, and 0.7 percent to interdiction.
Shoveling Up II: The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets
This major report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University shows that substance abuse and addiction cost federal, state and local governments at least $467.7 billion in 2005.
State governments spend almost 15 percent of their entire budgets on substance abuse and addiction and its consequences. If this were its own state budget category, it would rank second, behind spending on elementary and secondary education.
Join Together, a project of CASA, has posted detailed spending data for most U.S. states on this website.
How much does my state spend?
Find out what Texas spends (PDF, 27 KB)
Get Involved: Texas
Tell your elected officials about this report
Texas Urged to Build on Prison Treatment System
March 4, 2009
Texas serves as a national model for providing addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs to prison inmates, but could do even more to cut recidivism rates and divert offenders from prison to treatment, according to former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
The Austin American-Statesman reported March 4 that Dukakis visited Austin to promote increased investment in treatment and tout the cost savings of providing alternatives to incarceration.
Dukakis said that Texas could build on the prison reforms started two years ago by expanding treatment coverage in the state Medicaid system.
"Lives are being saved," Dukakis said. "There's nothing partisan about this issue ... I hope all the states can expand their programs like Texas has."
"How often do you hear that -- someone from Massachusetts congratulating Texas?" said John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who chairs the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "Texas is trying. We're trying to make a difference."
Dukakis was the Democratic nominee for president in 1988 and led Join Together's Blueprint for the States policy panel, a wide-ranging initiative to encourage policymakers to adopt best practices regarding addiction issues and invest in treatment and prevention services.
Jones Co. inmate facility breaks ground
By Angelia Joiner
Special to the Reporter-News
June 5, 2009
Site preparation began this week on the Jones County Intermediate Sanction Facility located on the northeast side of Anson.
The building will hold 950 inmates on a 64-acre site and is expected to cost roughly $25.5 million. It will be built by Hale-Mills Construction from Houston.
Jones County Judge Dale Spurgin said plans for the facility were finalized May 28.
David Payne, Hale-Mills Construction project manager, said a construction job fair will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Wingate by Wyndham at 3010 Catclaw Drive and South Clack Street in Abilene.
The construction company will hire subcontractors, but the job fair is open to anyone. Resumes will be passed on to the subcontractors, Payne said. The company is looking to hire a job site secretary who will work directly for them and operators, mechanical concrete workers, steel erectors, carpenters, masons, electrical, general labor, plumbing, painters, drywall workers, and others will be employed through the subcontractors.
Payne said at peak times, the site will have 150-200 workers.
The new building will have an option to enlarge to 1,450 inmates but the planned breakdown of beds is 650 beds for the Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF) and 300 beds for the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (SAFPF).
Spurgin has said the ISF would house people on parole or probation whom a judge has sent for a violation rather than sending them back to prison. They can get counseling for life skills such as time management or receive other kinds of treatment. The stay is usually 30 to 45 days.
The SAFPF is for people who have a chemical dependence and have been placed on probation. A judge can order them to this facility to complete drug treatment, and the typical stay is six months.
The Texas Midwest Public Facility Corp. board, made up of Jones County officials and others, approved the facility earlier this year.
The facility is contracting with the state to bring in inmates from across Texas.
Plans for a new county jail have been delayed for about six or seven months Spurgin said.
He said plans are to begin after the new year so revenues from the Jones County Intermediate Sanction Facility can make the payments on the new jail.
The new jail is expected to cost in the $5.6 million range and will hold 96 inmates, increasing capacity from the 31 beds housed in the old jail.
Spurgin said the construction of this large facility is expected to be complete in June 2010 and will provide 190 full-time positions ranging from the warden to counselors, educators, guards and clerical staff. An exact opening date has not been determined, but Spurgin said the state was told the facility would be available Sept. 1.
Spurgin said throughout the public hearing process, there have been no negative comments about the project. "It's all been supportive," he said.
Dealing with son's prison sentence only way I know
By Bob West
CNHI News Service
(Editor's note: Bob West is sports editor of Port Arthur News in Texas, a sister newspaper to the Richmond Register. This column about his son's methamphetamine addiction a widespread problem in Kentucky is a sad example of the devastation the drug brings to users and their families.)
Readers who turn to this space on Sundays looking to be entertained with a collection of odds and ends from the sports world will have to forgive a devastated dad for deviating from the norm. Sports moves to the back burner after you've spent a week in a courtroom and seen your son sentenced to 65 years in prison.
I've spent the past few days wrestling over whether to address Damon's sad situation in a column and finally decided it was something I needed to do. Among the many reasons leading to my decision was an outpouring of love, prayers and compassion from family and friends, and from some folks Genie and I don't even know.
These words on a card from Betty and Gene Scott sum it all up. "If you could listen to all the thoughts going out to you now, you'd hear a symphony of warmth and caring."
So where do you start to explain how the high school quarterback, the All-American boy, the kid most everybody from his hometown really liked could end up breaking our hearts? In this case, the answer is as simple as two words methamphetamine addiction.
That's another reason I wanted to write this column. If I can reach one kid, one parent with the human tragedy crystal meth made of Damon West, it will be my greatest achievement as a writer. Hopefully I can connect with more than one because this insidious drug is all too available.
Anybody with concerns should go to the web site www.meth911.net.
Jumping off the top of the lead page in bold letters is the quote, "The first thing people on methamphetamines lose is their common sense." It gets more eye-opening from there.
Damon lost his common sense, his grasp of reality and eventually his freedom. He wasn't the same person who left home 15 years ago with a football scholarship to North Texas, the same guy who as recently as 2004 was impressing heavyweights in the Democratic party as a fund raiser for presidential candidate Dick Gephardt.
The downfall began after he moved to Dallas in 2005. Our alarm bells started going off a year or so later. He began dating a stripper who was bad news and told us he was working for a limousine service and on the side buying things to resell from storage facilities. At times he would get belligerent with us over the phone.
We began to suspect drug use. On the rare occasions he came home, we pleaded with him to get out of Dallas and move back in with us. I sent a dear friend from Houston, Barry Warner, to try and deliver the same message.
Our words fell on deaf ears. Somehow we should have done more. But what? You can't grab a 30-year-old and forcibly move him? Not when he's sold his soul to meth.
So now Damon sits in a jail cell, awaiting assignment to the prison system. There is no question he was guilty of being involved in a massive string of burglaries. The evidence was overwhelming. I can't even begin to describe how much it hurt to listen to the testimony of victim after victim put on the stand by the prosecution.
Equally painful was watching some of the losers trotted out to testify against him. Two of them had to be brought from their own jail cells. These were people the Damon we used to know would never have associated with. But his common sense was long gone.
Nothing we saw or heard, however, prepared us to hear a sentence of 65 years. Murderers, rapists and child molesters don't get that kind of time. Actually, since he was a first offender and there was compelling testimony from a state-paid psychologist and psychiatrist who did extensive testing on him, we hoped for probation.
Our desire was to get him in a drug treatment facility, then bring him back home under a strong probation and community service requirement, and have him speak about what meth had done to him at any school that was receptive.
Included in the testimony presented by the doctors who interviewed him, and put him through batteries of tests, was that he'd been sexually molested by a baby sitter at age nine (we knew about it and he received counseling), that he suffers from attention deficit disorder (we didn't know), that he was not a sociopath and that what he needed most was drug rehab.
The investigator working with Damon's legal team said we assembled the strongest lineup of character witnesses he'd ever seen. Included was former Texas land commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Garry Mauro and Arthur Schecter, a Houston attorney and a former ambassador to Bermuda under Bill Clinton.
Both had worked closely with Damon during the 2004 campaign. Schechter even gave him the keys to his River Oaks mansion to come and go as he pleased when in Houston.
Also testifying on his behalf was his priest where he attended church in Port Arthur, Father Don Donahugh, his football coach at TJ, Mike Owens, and his godfather and former editor of the Port Arthur News, Bill Maddox. His mother and I were also put on the stand.
Ultimately, it didn't make any difference. Even though no guns were used and none of the victims were ever physically confronted, no mercy was shown.
Using a fairly new law that holds when three or more persons are involved in burglaries it can be treated as organized crime, they buried him. He's not eligible for parole for 15 years. It's doubtful he'll ever get the drug treatment he needs.
Meanwhile, Genie and I are struggling and shedding a lot of tears but we'll be OK. Ditto for Damon's brothers, Brandon and Grayson.
Although our love is unconditional, we're alternately furious with Damon for destroying what could have been such a productive life, and consumed with grief over the loss of that caring, charismatic kid who left home 15 years ago with such big dreams.
Above all, we hope and pray meth doesn't bring down someone else's child or loved one. Since this sordid chapter in our lives began, we have learned Grayson's wife had two brothers driven to suicide by meth addiction.
In closing, we want to thank everyone who has reached out to us, and those who have wanted to but just didn't know what to say. Your thoughts and prayers have been a blessing.
Bob West is the sports editor of The Port Arthur (Texas) News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 12, 2009
Reliance on fees left drug courts underfunded
According to the Killeen Daily Herald ("Bell County making progress on drug court," May 12), the Lege did not provide enough funding for drug courts mandated by the 80th Texas Legislature in 2007, putting some counties in the position of possibly losing state probation funds:
A mandate came out of the last legislative session, requiring counties with a population of more than 200,000 to create a drug court.
Bell County received $100,000 for the program, but [County Judge Jon] Burrows said this will not cover all the expenses incurred, for which they originally requested $240,000.
The county applied for $261,000 in state grants for the next fiscal year.
If the county does not implement a drug court, the state would withdraw funding from adult probation programs.
Burrows said the risk of not having state funds for those services is enough incentive to implement the drug court, even though he and other officials said a drug court was not needed in Bell County.
"Our judges were already doing the same thing a drug court would do," Burrows said in an interview last month. "This is another unfunded mandate on us for a program we didn't ask for, and our judges said we don't need."
Burrows said he contacted the governor's office on criminal justice, which told him the funding mechanism in the statute failed to generate enough funds for all Texas counties.
Todd Jermstad, interim director for Bell County's judicial district Community Supervision and Corrections Department, created Bell County's drug court plan with Judge Rick Morris of the 169th District Court.
"There are still grants that can be disbursed, that free up funding for this year through August," Jermstad said. "The biggest need is for outpatient treatment, but the state did not provide enough money for that."
Drug court will begin as soon as the county receives grants for it.
To me, this shows why it can be problematic to rely on probationers' fees to pay for criminal justice programming when they're already overloaded and too high. Paying for outpatient treatment is much cheaper than sending more folks to prison (which is paid for out of state general revenue), so in that sense it's penny wise but pound foolish to not do a drug court because probationers' fees won't cover it.
We'll see what the conference committee on the budget comes up with, but I'm somewhat concerned that the 81st Legislature hasn't included enough resources to make up this shortfall and pay for necessary treatment programs. That leaves new Texas stimulus funds for law-enforcement grants as the main available source for making up that amount. That money will be distributed entirely at the Governor's discretion.
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast
Labels: Drug courts, fees, Grants, Probation
Fairness in Drug Sentencing
Published: April 30, 2009
Congresss decision to mandate longer prison terms for people arrested with crack cocaine than those caught with the powdered form of the drug was both irrational and discriminatory.
The theory behind the law, that crack cocaine cooked in baking soda was more addictive and led to more violent crime was soon proved false. But by then, the country was locked into a policy under which the mainly minority drug users arrested with small amounts of crack were getting harsher sentences than white users caught with far larger amounts of powder.
The United States Sentencing Commission, which sets sentencing guidelines for the federal courts, reports that in 2006, 82 percent of the people convicted under the federal crack statute were black and only 9 percent were white. Many of the people given those harsh sentences were also first-time offenders who could have been rehabilitated through community-based drug treatment programs. In addition to ruining countless young lives, the policy undermined trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.
Congress has repeatedly ignored calls to equalize sentencing, partly because Justice Department officials in previous administrations have argued against it. This week, however, Lanny A. Breuer, the new chief of the Justice Departments Criminal Division, told lawmakers that it was time to revisit the crack/cocaine disparity.
Mr. Breuer argued that the sentencing disparity was difficult to justify based on the facts and science, including evidence that crack is not an inherently more addictive substance than powder cocaine. The law was especially problematic, he continued, because a growing number of citizens view it as fundamentally unfair.
Mr. Breuer is right. Instead of perpetuating this discrimination, Congress should quickly move to equalize the penalties for the possession of crack and cocaine.
A version of this article appeared in print on May 1, 2009, on page A22 of the New York edition.
Fairness in Drug Sentencing
Number of Black Americans in State Prisons for Drug Offenses Declines
By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 14, 2009
For the first time since crack cocaine sparked a war on drugs 20
years ago, the number of black Americans in state prisons for drug
offenses has fallen sharply, while the number of white prisoners
convicted for drug crimes has increased, according to a report
The D.C.-based Sentencing Project reported that the number of black
inmates in state prisons for drug offenses had fallen from 145,000 in
1999 to 113,500 in 2005, a 21.6 percent decline. Over the same
period, the number of white drug offenders rose steadily, from 50,700
to more than 72,300, a 42.6 percent increase. The number of Latino
drug offenders was virtually unchanged at about 51,000.
The findings represent a significant shift in the racial makeup of
those incarcerated for drugs and could signal a gradual change in the
demographics of the nation's prison population 2 million, which has
been disproportionately black for decades. Drug offenders make up
about a quarter of the overall prison population.
The Sentencing Project report and other experts said the numbers
could reflect two factors: an increased reliance by prosecutors and
judges on prison alternatives such as drug courts, and a shift in
police focus to methamphetamines, which are used and distributed
mostly by white Americans. In addition, the report said, crack
cocaine use has declined steadily since the 1990s, and so have police
The report relied heavily on data compiled by the federal Bureau of
Justice Statistics and covered six years ending in 2005, the last
year the bureau broke down the state prison population by race and
African American drug offenders, who have been convicted most often
for dealing and possessing crack cocaine, still made up a
disproportionate share of the total, 44 percent in 2005. That was
down from nearly 58 percent six years earlier, but still represented
a disproportionate share, because black Americans make up only about
12 percent of the U.S. population.
The number of white state drug offenders rose from 20 percent to 29
percent, and Latino prisoners made up 20 percent of inmates.
"I have no doubt that crystal meth explains some of the white
increase, but I'm not ready to say it's the reason for all of the
white increase," said Marc Mauer, executive director of the
Sentencing Project, which opposes stiff penalties for nonviolent drug
crimes. "It's also hard to imagine that [drug courts] are not having
some effect. Most drug courts are in urban areas where African
Twenty percent of white inmates used methamphetamines in the month
before they were arrested, compared with 1 percent of black inmates,
according to interviews conducted in the nation's 14,500 state
prisons and 3,700 federal prisons.
Drug courts offer nonviolent offenders the option of undergoing
rigorous substance abuse treatment and criminal rehabilitation or
going to jail. There are more than 2,000 such courts in operation,
mostly in cities with large black communities that were ravaged by
violence associated with crack cocaine. White suspects are also
increasingly winding up in drug courts for abusing methamphetamines.
Mauer also hypothesized that drug dealers might have shifted from
open air crack cocaine markets to dealing indoors, making them harder
for police to bust. And he speculated that because so many African
American men have been incarcerated, there are fewer on the street to
But James E. Felman, co-chairman of the Sentencing Committee for the
American Bar Association, said that in Tampa, where he practices law,
police are still arresting black suspects for crack possession and
distribution, and handing out long sentences.
"I can't second-guess their study, but I haven't seen a change,"
Felman said. "Maybe we're getting smarter on crime in some states.
That could be part of it."
David Muhlhausen, a senior policy analyst for the conservative
Heritage Foundation, said stronger police enforcement of
methamphetamine trafficking and use, coupled with treatment options
mostly for urban crack cocaine offenders, probably caused the shift.
"There is some data out there that suggests that drug courts and drug
treatments reduce recidivism," he said. "If you take the less serious
offenders and put them into programs other than prison it would be a
benefit to society."
The war on drugs began in 1986, when Congress passed the Anti-Drug
Abuse Act to combat violence associated with the crack cocaine trade.
Lawmakers were prompted by the death of University of Maryland
basketball player Len Bias, who they mistakenly believed had died
from ingesting crack. Bias overdosed on powder cocaine.
Last year, then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) joined several of
his colleagues in saying his support of the legislation was a
mistake. As a result of the law, more than a half-million people have
been incarcerated for drug offenses in state and federal prison, a
massive increase from the 40,000 who were jailed for the same
offenses in 1980.
According to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics last year,
7.2 million people are under prison supervision, as inmates, parolees
and probationers, at a cost of about $45 billion per year.
California, which has one of the nation's largest prison populations,
farmed out 170,000 inmates to private prisons as far away as
Tennessee in 2006 to relieve costs, and has relaxed its penal code to
relieve prison overcrowding.
Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, a former director of the Bureau of Justice
Statistics, said the record incarceration might be worth the cost.
"As the number of people under correctional supervision goes up,
crime goes down," he said. Conservative estimates put the cost of
violent crime at about $17 billion, Sedgwick said.
Number of Black Americans in State Prisons for Drug Offenses Declines
April 13, 2009
Addiction Behind Bars
The United States must do more to curb the spread of diseases like
AIDS and hepatitis C in prison, where infection rates are high and
inmates can easily spread disease through unprotected sex or by
Drug treatment in prison is clearly part of the solution. But by some
estimates, fewer than one in five inmates who need formal treatment
are actually getting it. Thats alarming, given that about half the
prison population suffers from drug abuse or dependency problems.
Addicted prisoners cause problems outside the walls. After theyre
freed, addicts with H.I.V. or AIDS can infect spouses and lovers.
They feed their addictions by returning to crime, which lands them
back in prison and starts the terrible cycle over again.
The most effective programs provide inmates with high-quality
treatment in prison and continue that treatment when prisoners return
to their communities. Such programs have been shown to reduce both
drug use and recidivism.
But good programs are rare, according to a report earlier this year
in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Prisons typically
rely on the abstinence-only model, which fails miserably with heroin
addicts. Moreover, prison officials are notoriously hostile to
methadone maintenance and other chemically based therapies that have
long been a standard for people addicted to opiates.
Prison treatment is particularly disastrous in New York, according to
a new report from Human Rights Watch. Imprisoned addicts, the authors
say, are typically shut out of treatment until their sentences are
nearly over because of ill-conceived policies that give priority to
those who are about to be released.
New rules created earlier this month should help address these
problems. The rules give oversight responsibility for prison
treatment programs to the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance
Abuse Services, an agency that develops treatment programs and
licenses treatment providers.
The agency will be required to make sure that prison drug treatments
are tailored to inmates needs. It will also monitor the programs,
filing annual reports to the governor and Legislature. Drug-policy
advocates hope that the new arrangement will improve treatment and
provide timely help for addicted inmates. That would be good for
public health. It could reduce crime, too.
Addiction Behind Bars
I am the U.S. and I'm Addicted to Drugs
March 27, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments about the shared responsibility between the U.S. and Mexico in the fight against drug trafficking and the violence it provokes are as academics are fond of saying necessary but not sufficient.
Her comments acknowledging the role of the U.S. demand for drugs and that U.S. gunrunners are arming the cartels were most welcomed by her Mexican hosts but, frankly, are nothing new.
It is as if both countries are taking the first of the famous 12 steps in dealing with substance abuse: Admit you have a problem.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón has been at the first step for quite some time now, deploying Army troops to the border areas and speaking out about the cartel's evil impact on both sides of the border. It is unusual candor for a head of state, and the blunt talk underlines a commitment to do something about it.
Doing something about it includes Calderón's call for an overhaul of the Mexican judicial system and attacking corruption throughout the Mexican government. Unlike some of his predecessors, Calderón has not backed away from seeking help from the United States leaving him an easy target for domestic critics. He has even reached out to Canada.
Earlier this week, Wally Oppal, attorney general of British Columbia, and Rommel Moreno Manjarrez, attorney general of the Mexican state of Baja California, signed an agreement vowing cooperation and sharing information about "criminal activities that transcend international borders."
Calderón's effort is as necessary as Clinton's candor on the U.S. contribution to the drug trade, and just as insufficient.
After the admission that there is a problem, the road ahead looks a little murkier and politically problematic on both sides of the border.
Mexicans are wary of U.S. intentions and especially sensitive about talk of militarizing the border, which evokes images of 1846 and the U.S. invasion of Mexico that resulted in that nation's loss of what is now the Southwestern United States.
Another complication is that Calderón's term ends in 2012, and he is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election. So the clock is ticking on his presidency, and there is no guarantee that his successor will continue the march against the cartels with the zeal Calderón has shown.
On this side, talk of a U.S. crackdown on illegal gun smuggling has already provoked a strong reaction from gun rights groups that threaten a noisy fight against anything they consider a threat to the Second Amendment.
Constitutional scholars have long argued about the meaning and intent of that amendment, but an argument that the Second Amendment protects illegal gun trade would be a huge leap in both faith and logic.
Demand for drugs in the United States continues unabated, and as long there is a market for the cocaine that passes through Mexico and the marijuana it produces, someone will sell it and deliver it.
Various programs aimed at curtailing drug consumption have a spotty record of success. Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" approach became a punch line. Lowering criminal penalties for possession of marijuana in small quantities has had some impact, but there is still tremendous pressure on jails that house people imprisoned on drug convictions.
The law-enforcement approach to curtailing the drug trade is certainly an important component, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that elected leaders in the three countries need to take a good, hard look at fundamental policy shifts in confronting the drug trade.
The time has come for a serious discussion about decriminalizing drugs even further. It won't be an easy talk to have. It is beyond Utopian to think that a wholesale decriminalization would cure all the societal ills created by illegal drug trafficking.
President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs in the 1970s, and three decades later we're still in it with scant progress to show for all the time, effort and money we've poured into that war.
This isn't a discussion that will take place tomorrow or even next month, when President Barack Obama visits Mexico, but it's one we should be prepared to have.
I am the U.S. and I'm Addicted to Drugs
Dukakis: Texas model in prison rehab
By Mike Ward
March 4, 2009
Michael Dukakis knows the deadly spiral of addiction well.
His wife, Kitty, beat a highly publicized, years-long addiction to
diet pills and anti-depressants.
As governor of Massachusetts in the 1980s, Dukakis championed cutting-
edge treatment programs for imprisoned drunk drivers in his Bay
State, among the first in the nation. He launched programs to curb
teen-aged drinking and drug abuse.
As the Democratic nominee for president in 1988, he challenged
Americans to kick their habit of drink and drugs.
On Tuesday, Dukakis, 75, brought his rehab message to Austin, in
meetings with state leaders to urge them to grow Texas treatment
programs even expand some to cover Medicaid recipients.
And he brought congratulations: Texas is a national model, by greatly
expanding its prison treatment and rehabilitation programs two years
ago in a move that was criticized.
So far, recent reports show, that expansion may be paying off with
recidivism rates that appear to be dropping, and with prison growth
flat-lining so that no expensive new lockups will need to be built
for the foreseeable future.
Lives are being saved, Dukakis told Statesman.com, in an exclusive
interview in his suite at the Driskill Hotel. Theres nothing
partisan about this issue. This issue was not mentioned in any of the
State of the State messages this year, but its one of the most
important issues we face.
Heres why, Dukakis says:
For every alcoholic or drunken driver or addicted drug-user who
receives treatment, achieves sobriety and becomes a productive
citizen, taxpayers spend less and less to deal with the problems.
For everyone who kicks a drug habit, less cocaine and heroin and
other illicit drugs are consumed in the United States and that cuts
the profits of the drug cartels and street gangs.
Five of the worlds population in this country accounts for 50
percent of the worlds cocaine use, Dukakis said. With the war
thats going on on the border, that could spill into Texas, we need
to stop providing the cartels profits and stop the demand for the
Theres a massive silence on this issue. Its amazing.
Dukakis is on the board of a Massachusetts-based group called Join
Together that advocates for effective drug and alcohol policy,
prevention and treatment.
Im here in Texas to first say, congratulations to Texas for doing
this (expanding the prison programs, he said. I hope all the states
can expand their programslike Texas has.
We not only need these programs, we need education programs
beginning in the elementary grades to teach children not to use drugs
Programs like these prevention, treatment, rehabilitation pay
enormously with the lives they save and in the improved public safety
that results. If we send people to prison and provide them with no
programs, they will come out one day and go back into their community
and return to the same cycle of abuse they were in before.
For her part, Kitty Dukakis is just as outspoken and committed to the
same goals as her husband.
I wish what I have been able to achieve for many others, she said.
Texas is doing the right thing.
And from Senate Criminal Justice Committee John Whitmire, D-Houston,
one of the Texans who the Dukakis came to Austin to congratulate,
came this response:
How often do you hear that someone from Massachusetts
congratulating Texas. Texas is trying. Were trying to make a
Dukakis: Texas model in prison rehab
Drug program gets credit for halting prisoner increase
By Mike Ward
February 20, 2009
Texas' prison population has stopped growing for the time being, thanks in part to changes in corrections policy two years ago that boosted financing for rehabilitation programs, new statistics revealed Thursday. Texas will not have to consider building new prisons at a time when the economy's struggles are pinching the state budget, officials said.
"We put 6,000 treatment beds on line in the past two years ... and this is the initial result: just what we expected," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, who co-wrote legislation mandating the expanded treatment programs in 2007.
Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said the statistics show "a dramatic turnaround." Thursday's testimony by the Legislative Budget Board to the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee marked the first public report card on the new programs, which two years ago were championed by corrections advocates as a step forward and opposed by some prosecutors and police groups as too soft on crime.
"Crime is down; the programs are working," said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which operates the 112-prison system. "It's been proven before that these types of programs have an impact on recidivism, so these new numbers are no surprise."
According to the report, the number of convicts in state prisons is expected to remain steady this year and then decline slightly the following year for the first time in several years.
In 2012, however, the prison population could begin increasing again, and by 2014, it is expected to grow from the current 155,000 to nearly 158,000, according to the Legislative Budget Board.
Billed at the time as the biggest shift for Texas corrections policy in years, the 2007 changes expanded the capacity of in-prison drug and alcohol treatment programs, opened new transition treatment centers to help convicts succeed once they got out, expanded counseling and specialized drug treatment programs, and opened new lockups designed especially for habitual drunken driving offenders.
The total cost was more than $227 million. Money is being sought this year for additional treatment beds, which could further reduce the prison population, said state Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, who is co-author of the plan and chairman of the House Corrections Committee.
Drug program gets credit for halting prisoner increase
Rehab, Not Relapse
By Tim Swenson
Jan 26 2009
Column Closing Arguments
The other night I was watching The Shawshank Redemption, a film about a group of prisoners living behind bars. At one poignant moment, one of the prisoners, Red, is asked whether or not he feels hes been rehabilitated after serving time. To that he responds, Rehabilitated? You know, I dont have any idea what that means.
Upon a closer look at the state of affairs in America, it appears the U.S. prison system too fails to understand what rehabilitation is.
The driving force behind our incarceration system is twofold: We aim to punish wrongdoing as a means of deterrence, but we also want to rehabilitate criminals so that they may again function in and contribute to society. It is my view, however, that in past decades we have placed too much emphasis on the former and not enough on the latter.
By every measurable standard, the prison system is failing our nation the notion of incarceration as we see it now is flawed. A prison essentially amounts to a grouping of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals that society has set apart from law-abiding citizens. We send these people to one place, keep them there for a period of time and then release them. We are allowing them a venue where they can share stories and tips and build what will be, for many, the only viable relationships they will have when released.
Prisoners go in for misdemeanors and walk out equipped with the knowledge and contacts to commit felonies. Prisons are places where criminals can meet criminals. Its no wonder that a 2006 study found that within three years of release, a staggering 67 percent were rearrested and 52 percent were sent back to prison. This is to be expected, considering that we currently operate under a punish over help mindset. We are giving these people time-outs without the critical lesson learned that helps prevent relapses.
Critics of the prison system can also look to the significant economic burden that the system places on taxpayers. According to a White House study, the average cost per year to keep one prisoner behind bars is roughly $23,542 and growing exponentially each year.
Multiply that by the 2007 prison population of 2,293,157 and it comes out to a $53,985,502, 094 burden on taxpayers. Each of us pays about $388 per year for a failed prison system.
Alternatives must be explored. One such idea addresses drug abuse:
Studies have concluded that intensive drug rehabilitation clinics are more effective and more cost-efficient than is incarceration in combating drug abuse. The same study that determined the yearly costs per prisoner found that the cost of a successful drug treatment plan was about $9,000 less than half the incarceration rate. The study also concluded that only 3.3 percent of those in treatment were rearrested within the first six months after release, compared to the 12.1 percent of those not in the program.
Why do we allow this to go on? People are scared. As a society, we require some sort of closure and believe that locking a person away for 10 years will do the trick. We remain blissfully unaware that in 10 years, that person will likely emerge from the prison system in worse shape than when he or she entered.
Politicians dont make any effort to dispel the misconception. They have something to gain by keeping more and more criminals locked up.
One study found that, were everyone in prison released without jobs, the unemployment rate would be 1.3 percent higher.
In addition, businesses stand to make a fortune off of the prison population, Convicts are perfect consumers: They are a captive audience, forced to use certain products without any alternatives.
The Prison Policy Initiative found that one food company, VitaPro Meat, made $34 million dollars per year from the Texas prison system alone. Its a goldmine for big business and one that they are reluctant to let go. Because they thrive off of repeat costumers, rehabilitation is simply bad for business.
We must reform the prison system as we see it now. We are living under a false sense of security when we lock people away without giving them the tools to help themselves. If we are not going to help them overcome their difficulties, then we might as well give every criminal a life sentence, because anything else is only making the problem worse. The alternatives to general incarceration are there before we shrug them off as being soft on crime, we need to take a hard look at our current system. If Americans think that locking criminals away will assuage their fears, maybe we all could use a little rehabilitation as well.
Tim Swenson is a junior in the College, a cadet in Army ROTC and a GUSA senator. He can be reached at swenson@thehoya. com. Closing Arguments appears every other Tuesday.
To send a letter to the editor on a recent campus issue or Hoya story or a viewpoint on any topic, contact opinion@thehoya. com. Letters should not exceed 300 words, and viewpoints should be between 600 to 800 words.
Rehab, Not Relapse
Judge quest to decriminalize minor drug use gets support
By BRIAN ROGERS
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Jan. 14, 2009
As the Texas Legislature begins its session, a Houston judge is again
arguing to end jail time for criminals caught with small amounts of
cocaine and crack, but this time he has the support of 15 colleagues.
State District Judge Michael McSpadden on Wednesday sent a letter to
the states top officials and Houstons senators and representatives
asking for a change in what he called draconian laws.
During the last session, McSpadden stood alone when he asked that
charges for possession of a controlled substance of less than 1 gram
be reduced from a state jail felony to a misdemeanor. Two years
later, judges from both major political parties are joining the
Republican who has been on the bench for more than 20 years.
Sixteen of us feel that its just unfair to be convicted for a
residue amount and be labeled a felon, which changes your whole
life, McSpadden said. Were not talking about legalizing it; were
talking about making it a misdemeanor.
Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos said the problem is
multifaceted, and she is studying the best ways to solve the problems
associated with drug abuse, including pre-trial diversion and
residential treatment centers.
She said she was looking at the big picture and noted that Class A
misdemeanors could still involve jail time, which wouldnt help jail
overcrowding, and that small drug arrests lower other crimes in
Lykos also pointed out that any drug user contributes money to
criminal empires, including drug lords in Mexico and terrorists
Anyone who uses illicit drugs has blood on their hands, she said.
In his letter, McSpadden suggested reducing the charge and mandating
drug treatment. He also recommended funding misdemeanor drug courts.
McSpadden said 25 percent to 30 percent of Harris Countys 22
criminal district court dockets are felony charges for less than 1
gram of a controlled substance.
The change, McSpadden argues, would lower dockets and create uniform
enforcement across the state. He noted that Dallas County police and
prosecutors place a lower priority on these offenses, leading to
disparate treatment between counties.
McSpadden said his concerns come from fielding complaints about the
system from juries and residents.
The War on Drugs isnt working, and we as judges realize it,
McSpadden said. And the public realizes it.
During the last session, the proposal didnt make it out of committee.
Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Sen. John
Whitmire, D-Houston, didnt return calls for comment on the proposal
Judges who signed on with McSpadden include fellow Republicans Debbie
Mantooth Stricklin, Jeannine Barr, Vanessa Velasquez, Denise Collins,
Marc Carter, Belinda Hill, Joan Campbell and Jim Wallace.
Democrats supporting the initiative, who were all elected in
November, include Ruben Guerrero, Shawna Reagin, Kevin Fine, David
Mendoza, Randy Roll, Hazel Jones and Maria Jackson.
Judge quest to decriminalize minor drug use gets support
The Evidence Gap
Drug Rehabilitation or Revolving Door?
Leah Nash for The New York Times
THERAPY Mark Wyatt leading a session at CODA, a treatment program in Oregon.
CODAs director said a system that tracked clients and defined targets was needed.
By BENEDICT CAREY
Published: December 22, 2008
ROSEBURG, Ore. Their first love might be the rum or vodka or gin and juice that is going around the bonfire. Or maybe the smoke, the potent marijuana that grows in the misted hills here like moss on a wet stone.
The Evidence Gap
Substance-Abuse Treatment Articles in this series are exploring medical treatments used despite scant proof that they work and are examining steps toward medicine based on evidence.
Leah Nash for The New York Times
PURSUING RECOVERY Patients and their families waiting for methadone at CODA in Portland, Ore.
But it hardly matters. Here as elsewhere in the country, some users start early, fall fast and in their reckless prime can swallow, snort, inject or smoke anything available, from crystal meth to prescription pills to heroin and ecstasy. And treatment, if they get it at all, can seem like a joke.
After the first couple of times I went through, they basically told me that there was nothing they could do, said Angella, a 17-year-old from the central Oregon city of Bend, who by freshman year in high school was drinking hard liquor every day, smoking pot and sampling a variety of harder drugs. They were like, Uh, I dont think so.
She tried residential programs twice, living away from home for three months each time. In those, she learned how dangerous her habit was, how much pain it was causing others in her life. She worked on strengthening her relationship with her grandparents, with whom she lived. For two months or so afterward she stayed clean.
Then I went right back, Angella said in an interview. After a while, you know, you just start missing your friends.
Every year, state and federal governments spend more than $15 billion, and insurers at least $5 billion more, on substance-abuse treatment services for some four million people.
That amount may soon increase sharply: last year, Congress passed the mental health parity law, which for the first time includes addiction treatment under a federal law requiring that insurers cover mental and physical ailments at equal levels.
Many clinics across the county have waiting lists, and researchers estimate that some 20 million Americans who could benefit from treatment do not get it. Yet very few rehabilitation programs have the evidence to show that they are effective.
The resort-and-spa private clinics generally do not allow outside researchers to verify their published success rates. The publicly supported programs spend their scarce resources on patient care, not costly studies. And the field has no standard guidelines.
Each program has its own philosophy; so, for that matter, do individual counselors. No one knows which approach is best for which patient, because these programs rarely if ever track clients closely after they graduate.
Even Alcoholics Anonymous, the best known of all the substance-abuse programs, does not publish data on its participants success rate. What we have in this country is a washing-machine model of addiction treatment, said A. Thomas McClellan, chief executive of the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute, based in Philadelphia.
You go to Shady Acres for 30 days, or to some clinic for 60 visits or 60 doses, whatever it is. And then youre discharged and everyones crying and hugging and feeling proud and youre supposed to be cured.
He added: It doesnt really matter if youre a movie star going to some resort by the sea or a homeless person. The system doesnt work well for what for many people is a chronic, recurring problem.
In recent years state governments, which cover most of the bill for addiction services, have become increasingly concerned, and some, including Delaware, North Carolina, and Oregon, have sought ways to make the programs more accountable.
The experience of Oregon, which has taken the most direct and aggressive action, illustrates both the promise and perils of trying to inject science into addiction treatment.
Evidence-Based Treatments In 2003 the Oregon Legislature mandated that rehabilitation programs receiving state funds use evidence-based practices techniques that have proved effective in studies.
The law, phased in over several years, was aimed at improving services so that addicts like Angella would not be doomed to a lifetime of rehab, repeating the same kinds of counseling that had failed them in the past or landing in worse trouble.
You can get through a lot of programs just by faking it, said Jennifer Hatton, 25, of Myrtle Creek, Ore., a longtime drinker and drug user who quit two years ago, but only after going to jail and facing the prospect of losing her children. Thats what did it for me my kids and I wish it didnt have to come to that.
When practiced faithfully, evidence-based therapies give users their best chance to break a habit. Among the therapies are prescription drugs like naltrexone, for alcohol dependence, and buprenorphine, for addiction to narcotics, which studies find can help people kick their habits.
Another is called the motivational interview, a method intended to harden clients commitment upon entering treatment.
In M.I., as it is known, the counselor, through skilled questioning, has the addict explain why he or she has a problem, and why it is important to quit, and set goals.
Studies find that when clients mark their path in this way instead of hearing the lecture from a counselor, as in many traditional programs they stay in treatment longer.
Psychotherapy techniques in which people learn to expect and tolerate restless or low moods are also on the list. So is cognitive behavior therapy, in which addicts learn to question assumptions that reinforce their habits (like Ill never make friends who dont do drugs) and to engage their nondrug activities and creative interests.
For Angella, this kind of counseling made a difference. She spent several months in a program run by Adapt, an addiction treatment center here in Roseburg, a small city about 175 miles south of Portland. In treatment, she said, she learned how to just be with, and feel bad moods without turning to drink or drugs; and to throw herself into creative projects like collage and painting.
The program has helped her reconnect with her father and to enroll in college beginning in January. I want to be a teacher, and someone at the program is advising me on that, she said in an interview. Thats the plan, to just move out and away from my old life. A friend of hers in the program, Alex, a 16-year-old from Roseburg, said that the therapy helped him monitor his own emotional ups and downs, without being swept away by them.
The counselors are always asking about our stress level, our anger, so you become more aware and have a better idea what to do with it, he said.
Almost 54 percent of Oregons $94 million budget for addiction treatment services now goes to programs that deploy evidence-based techniques, according to a state report completed last month. The estimated rate before the mandate was 25 to 30 percent.
The state has not yet analyzed the impact of this change on clients. Before the mandate, most programs had some evidence-based practices, and since then there has been a lot more interest and awareness of them, said Traci Rieckmann, a public health researcher at Oregon Health and Science University, who is following the policy implementation with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Yet interest and awareness may not translate into good practice, and Dr. Rieckmann says it is not at all clear how many rehabilitation programs claiming to use evidence-based techniques actually do so faithfully. About 400 programs receive state money, and most of them are small, rural outfits that are already stretched to provide counseling, to say nothing of paying for extensive training. Youre talking about therapies, like cognitive behavior therapy, that take time to learn, said John Gardin, the behavioral health and research director at Adapt in Roseburg, who travels the country to teach the skills.
Most places dont have a person like me to do that training, so theyre getting two to three days of training, if that; and thats just not enough time to get it.
In studies looking at hundreds of programs nationwide, researchers have found a similar gap between what programs may want to do and what theyre able to do.
For instance, most programs dont have an M.D. on staff, said Aaron Johnson, a sociologist at the University of Georgia who has led many of the studies. Without that, of course, you cant prescribe any medications.
Tim Hartnett, the executive director of a Portland treatment program called CODA Inc., which does its own research on patient outcomes, said that the mandate had raised the level of conversation statewide, but that true reform would mean an integrated system that tracks clients as they move from residential to outpatient treatment, and that defines clear targets for what a person should expect from each kind of program.
Our goal at CODA is to create a system of care that uses evidence-based practices at just the right dose and just the right time, Mr. Hartnett said. As with many chronic diseases, figuring out dosage and timing are critical.
For some addicts, a standard program may not help at all, according to Anne Fletcher, who for her book Sober For Good interviewed 222 men and women who had been clean for at least five years.
A lot of these people overcame an alcohol problem on their own, or with the help of an individual therapist, Ms. Fletcher said.
To complicate matters in Oregon, the state mandate has stirred a kind of culture clash between those who want reform academic researchers, state officials and veteran counselors working in the trenches, many of whom have beaten addictions of their own and do not appreciate outsiders telling them how to do their jobs. Im a counselor, and Id be defensive, too: What do you mean, all this stuff Ive been doing my entire life is wrong? said Brian Serna, director of outpatient services at Adapt, who has traveled the state to monitor the use of scientific practices.
So the challenge is to build a bridge between what the science says is effective and what people are already doing. One way to do that, some experts now believe, is to combine evidence-based practice with practice-based evidence the results that programs and counselors themselves can document, based on their own work.
In 2001 the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health began giving treatment programs incentives, or bonuses, if they met certain benchmarks.
The clinics could earn a bonus of up to 5 percent, for instance, if they kept a high percentage of addicts coming in at least weekly and ensured that those clients met their own goals, as measured both by clean urine tests and how well they functioned in everyday life, in school, at work, at home.
By 2006, the states rehabilitation programs were operating at 95 percent capacity, up from 50 percent in 2001; and 70 percent of patients were attending regular treatment sessions, up from 53 percent, according to an analysis of the policy published last summer in the journal Health Policy.
We basically gave them a list of evidence-based practices and told them to pick the ones they wanted to use, said Jack Kemp, former director of substance abuse services for Delaware, in an interview. It was up to them to decide what to use.
For those who are trying not to use, it doesnt much matter how rehab services are improved only that it happens in time. Honestly, you just dont care how or why something works for you, said Ms. Hatton, the 25-year-old from Myrtle Creek, Ore. Just that it does.
The Evidence Gap
December 11, 2008
Texas not adequately monitoring SAFP program
The Austin Chronicle says criticisms of the state's Substance Abuse Felony Punishment (SAFP) program are falling on deaf legislative ears, airing complaints that female SAFP inmates are routinely called misogynist names and allegedly subject to tortuous treatment methods, citing a Nov. 13 Senate hearing that took limited testimony on the topic.
Earlier this year, following the initial reports of inmate charges, Whitmire's committee announced that this interim hearing would focus on SAFPF procedures.
But by August, specific mention of SAFPF had dropped off the hearing agenda. Asked why, a committee aide said: "There's not enough evidence. ... We're not going to hold hearings based on your article" or based on the growing pile of inmate testimonials, apparently.
At last month's Senate hearings to review, among other things, the state's privately run prisons and related programs, Whitmire was caught off guard by the testimony of Kerry Wolf, former inmate of the Hackberry "special needs" SAFPF unit in Gatesville. "Obviously, you've come to support SAFPF," the senator began. "Did it work?" Wolf answered, "I was appalled by the human rights abuses and torture that went on in the name of treatment." She'd sat through tighthouse herself. "I saw inmates who were already mentally fragile losing their minds, running around, tearing out their hair, falling out of chairs onto the floor, having seizures, fainting, or hallucinating, " Wolf said. As for "peer-driven" therapy, she told the committee, it was "Lord of the Flies run amok." But Wolf was the lone SAFPF critic that day. A dismissive Whitmire implied that she'd been out of SAFPF too long for her testimony to matter, sighing in relief, "Ohhhhh ... there's been a lot of changes since then" (Wolf was in SAFPF from 2001 to 2002).
Whitmire quickly lost interest, and during most of her testimony, he fidgeted and whispered to an aide. Michael Giniger took the mic and promptly discredited Wolf. "I am vice president of Gateway Foundation, the organization that this woman claims tortures people in our SAFPF facilities, which we don't. I ... tell you as I told you before, the SAFPF programs that are offered here in Texas ... are by far the best offered in the country." He pointed to 2003 "outcome studies," conducted by the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council, which showed "astonishingly good outcomes." Unsurprisingly, Whitmire didn't point out that those studies also covered the years when Wolf was at SAFPF. Wolf left the hearings in tears. "I can't stand to listen to this," she said.
I have no way of knowing what's going on inside SAFP treatment programs, but I can say with certainty there's a significant problem if there have been no outcome studies to measure the program's effectiveness since 2003. Why in heaven's name not?
I realize Tony Fabelo's now-defunct Criminal Justice Policy Council did the last study and that agency no longer exists. But it's pretty much nuts to me that nobody at TDCJ or the Lege insisted that ball get picked up - how can we not be analyzing Texas' main in-prison treatment program to see if it works or if it needs improvement?
Texas has expanded its treatment capacity significantly since 2003, largely on the premise that evidence based treatment practices will reduce recidivism. I tend to agree with that premise, but it's just a hypothesis until tested in the real world, and we can't measure and test whether the program works or not if no one is comprehensively examining SAFP outcomes - the same can be said for the new treatment programs installed in 2007.
I hope Sen. Whitmire is right that complaints of abuse are dated or overstated, but the exchange at the November hearing revealed a shortcoming in the state's oversight of treatment programs that needs to be addressed in a more systematic, ongoing way.
I have commented previously on the Substance Abuse treatment initiative approved when Governor Ann Richards was in Gov Perry's position.
The SAFP and IPTC programs were curtailed (and in some cases destroyed) by lack of funding, lack of support,Austin- based administrative misconduct, and political position changes.
I worked with (not for) the Gateway Company to initiate the first "Dual Diagnosis" treatment program. The Gateway personnel providing treatment, and the program was outstanding!
I visited the Kyle Unit, south of Austin, where some of the inmates had been transfered from my unit (TDC/TDCJ)and were undergoing the program. This was during the first year of the initiative. I separated myself from the main visitors group and talked with some of the offenders I knew concerning what they thought about the program. Each of them told me that for the first time they thought they had the "tools to make it in the"free world". These were all repeat offenders.
Most of the programs provided for the incarcerated have limited resources and are there because "They are required". The "Therapeutic Community" model worked! We were keeping stats on the "graduates" pertaining to reincarceration. We had a 60 percent success rate (Those that did not return to prison). The stats were short term, not sufficient for any emperical study, however the program was the best I have ever been knowledgeable of in my 40 plus years in the criminal justice/mental health fields.
I've known a number of people who went through the SAFP program. Upon release, they all said/advised the same, "if you have a choice between SAFP and jail/prison time - choose jail." The stories recounted about methods and practices used, especially in the women's unit, were pretty horrific and would be considered psychological torture by anyone.
JTP said... Grits,
Is it appropriate that the Senator is affiliated with Gateway Foundation or is that a potential conflict of interest? Please explain.
The comments by CAT about horrific methods and practices being in reality psychological torture sounds like the Bush administration initially swearing that torture wasn't used at Guantanamo. Called torture "treatment" doesn't make it such. The thread could be expanded beyond the SAFP and IPTC programs quite easily. I am thinking about the Grits thread called "Pew urges community supervision strategies to improve public safety". It could be blamed on lack of oversight of field agents, but that wouldn't began to get at the root of the problem.
I am the person who testified before the senator in the article you posted, Grits. There are literally PILES of pages of testimony from women in these programs who were abused and mistreated, called vicious names by "counselors" , subjected to tactics developed by Synanon in the 1960's before it was discredited, etc. I did what I felt I had to do by speaking out about what I saw (my full story can be seen in the online version of the Chronicle, under "Letters from women at SAFP", a link under the main article.)though I fully expected to be called a liar by SAFP personnel and was not disappointed. There were many women who begged me to speak out as I was leaving, but I was too fearful. Having finally done so, I can begin to put the experience behind me.
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast;
Labels: SAFP, Senate Criminal Justice, Subtance Abuse, TDCJ
Addiction Doesnt Discriminate? Wrong
By SALLY SATEL, M.D
Published: September 1, 2008
Weve heard it before. Drug abuse is an equal
opportunity destroyer. Drug addiction is a
bipartisan illness. Addiction does not discriminate;
it doesnt care if you are rich or poor, famous or
unknown, a man or woman, or even a child.
The phrase addiction doesnt care is not meant to
remind us that addiction casts a long shadow
everyone knows that. Rather, it is supposed to suggest
that any individual, no matter who, is vulnerable to
the ravages of drugs and alcohol.
The same rhetoric has been applied to other problems,
including child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism
even suicide. Dont stigmatize the afflicted, it
cautions; you could be next. Be kind, dont judge.
The democratization of addiction may be an appealing
message, but it does not reflect reality. Teenagers
with drug problems are not like those who never
develop them. Adults whose problems persist for
decades manifest different traits from those who get
So while anyone can theoretically become an addict, it
is more likely the fate of some, among them women
sexually abused as children; truant and aggressive
young men; children of addicts; people with diagnosed
depression and bipolar illness; and groups including
American Indians and poor people.
Attitudes, values and behaviors play a potent role as
Imagine two people trying cocaine, just to see what it
is like. Both are 32-year-old men with jobs and
families. One snorts a line, loves it and asks for
more. The other also loves it but pushes it away,
leaves the party and never touches it again. Different
values? Different tolerance for risk? Many factors may
distinguish the two cocaine lovers, but only one is at
risk for a problem.
Asking for more drug is no guarantee of being seduced
into routine use. But what if it happens? Jacob
Sullum, a senior editor at Reason magazine, has
interviewed many users who became aware that they were
sliding down the path to addiction.
It undermined their sense of themselves as
individuals in control of their own destinies, Mr.
Sullum wrote in his 2003 book, Saying Yes: In Defense
of Drug Use. And so they stopped.
I only read about these people. Patients who come to
our methadone clinic are there, obviously, because
theyre using. The typical patient is someone who has
been off heroin for a while (maybe because life was
good for while, maybe because there was no access to
drugs, maybe because the boss did urine testing) and
But the road to resumption was not unmarked. There
were signs and exit ramps all along the way. Instead
of heeding them, our patients made small, deliberate
choices many times a day to be with other users, to
cop drugs for friends, to allow themselves to become
bored and soon there was no turning back.
Addiction does indeed discriminate. It selects for
people who are bad at delaying gratification and
gauging consequences, who are impulsive, who think
they have little to lose, have few competing
interests, or are willing to lie to a spouse.
Though the National Institute on Drug Abuse describes
addiction as a chronic and relapsing disease, my
patients, seeking help, are actually the exception.
Addiction is not an equal opportunity destroyer even
among addicts because, thankfully, most eventually
extricate themselves from the worst of it.
Gene Heyman, a lecturer and research psychologist at
Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital, said in an
interview that between 60 and 80 percent of people
who meet criteria for addiction in their teens and 20s
are no longer heavy, problem users by their 30s. His
analysis of large national surveys revealed that those
who kept using were almost twice as likely to have a
concurrent psychiatric illness.
None of this is to deny that brain physiology plays a
meaningful role in becoming and staying addicted, but
that is not the whole story.
The culture of drink endures because it offers so
many rewards: confidence for the shy, clarity for the
uncertain, solace to the wounded and lonely, wrote
Pete Hamill in his memoir, A Drinking Life. Heroin
and speed helped the screenwriter Jerry Stahl, author
of Permanent Midnight, attain the the soothing hiss
If addiction were a random event, there would be no
logic to it, no desperate reason to keep going back to
the bottle or needle, no reason to avoid treatment.
The idea that addiction doesnt discriminate may be a
useful story line for the public if we are all under
threat then we all should urge our politicians to
support more research and treatment for addiction.
There are good reasons to campaign for those things,
but not on the basis of a comforting fiction.
Sally Satel is a psychiatrist and a resident scholar
at the American Enterprise Institute.
A version of this article appeared in print on
September 2, 2008, on page F6 of the New York edition.
August 03, 2008
Opponents of Amarillo halfway house misunderstand their own safety
As Texas lurches toward reinvigorating its carceral drug treatment
programs after draconian budget cuts eliminated most of them in 2003,
gaps in services and NIMBY opposition to transitional treatment
centers threaten to stymie some of the legislatively mandated
programs, particularly the drug treatment program SAFP (pronounced
Safe-P), which stands for Substance Abuse Felony Punishment.
Part of the SAFP program requires a three-month stint in a halfway
house before final release, but TDCJ has been unable to find
contractors willing to provide that service.
Even when someone is willing to establish and run a new halfway house,
NIMBYism frequently crops up to threaten the project. In Amarillo,
reports the Globe News' John Kanelis, halfway house up for a vote at a
city commission meeting on August 11:
has drawn opposing fire from neighbors, which is the least-surprising
- and most distressing - aspect of this debate.
Few people doubt the need to provide a transition for convicts back
into civilized society - just don't put 'em anywhere near me!
The Panhandle Truth Squad this spring editorialized against the NIMBYs
from their perch as Panhandle populists, calling the movement to
oppose the facility evidence Amarillo is a "city without pity."
But IMO what's needed is not "pity" but informed, rational self
interest. Amarilloans who oppose the halfway house simply
misunderstand where their real public safety interests lie.
What do they think happens if TDCJ can't build any halfway houses,
anywhere? Will those prisoners simply "go somewhere else"? Hell no.
They'll just be released directly on parole with LESS supervision than
they'd see in a halfway house!
In that context, opposition to such a facility can only be described
as mind bogglingly foolish, stemming from a complete failure to
understand their real public safety interests.
By opposing this facility, they're really making a de facto argument,
if never an explicit one, for releasing drug offenders on regular
parole without initial close supervision at all.
So would Amarillo be safer if SAFP released offenders directly without
such program? I've seen no data, but Kanelis quoted a local
probationer who'd been through a similar facility in Odessa describing
his experience and residents' interaction, or lack thereof, with their
Brian is adamant about many points concerning the halfway house,
especially the control it exercised over its residents.
He was released from the Odessa residence on Sept. 11, 2006 and has
lived in Amarillo ever since. Brian is still on probation, but once he
completes his sentence successfully, his felony conviction will be
removed from his record.
He credits the treatment he received in Odessa, along with SAFPF, for
saving his life.
The concerns of residents who oppose the treatment center in Amarillo
are misguided, Brian said.
"You don't leave the house except to go to work," he said. Brian
worked nights loading trucks for a chain of stores. "I left at 9 each
night for work and would return in the morning," he said. He had to
attend three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week; moreover, the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice bused him to the meetings.
"We had lights out at 10 each night," he said, "and we couldn't play
His point simply is this: The neighbors of the proposed AWARE
residence in south Amarillo "won't ever see the people" who live in
Oh, what about the perceived threat to neighbors by residents who fall
of the drugs-and-booze wagon?
Brian stifled a chuckle, and then said, "The people who mess up aren't
going to stick around. They're going to try to go home - wherever that
may be. They would be long gone."
Brian would get weekend passes while living in Odessa. He would come
home to spend time with his parents.
And when he returned to Odessa? He had to provide a urine sample to be
tested for drugs. "If I came up dirty, then my probation would be
revoked," he said. Happily, he stayed clean then and is staying clean now.
Would opponents of this facility prefer if Brian had come straight
home to Amarillo without this more intensive level of supervision when
he first left prison? If he went immediately back to work for his
father's Amarillo business (where he is today and in any event would
be inevitably), would the city's residents be more or less confident
he was prepared to responsibly exercise his new freedom?
I'm guessing if you asked them in the abstract, everyone opposing this
facility would say they want offenders closely supervised upon
release, they just don't want them in their neighborhood.
The tragically ridiculous and ignorant part of that stance is that the
folks in such facilities were their neighbors before they were drug
offenders - when they get out, back to your neighborhood is where
they're headed, anyway - just with less supervision.
If I were Jewish, this would be a good moment for use of the word,
"Oy!" - it expresses a sentiment that doesn't quite have an English
equivalent. Sometimes the stupidity is so visceral, it hurts!
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast
Labels: drug policy, Halfway houses, Private prisons, Probation, Re-Entry, Recidivism Programs, TDCJ
July 08, 2008
Shortage of aftercare beds threatens to continue TDCJ's drug treatment
Although the Texas Legislature (led by Sen. John Whitmire and Rep.
Jerry Madden) spearheaded a massive expansion of treatment options and
incarceration alternatives last year for prisoners and parolees, a
shortage of Transitional Treatment Center (TTC) beds threatens to
undermine Texas' expanded programs aimed at mitigating drug addiction.
While the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has made
progress, the majority of new treatment beds authorized by the
Legislature have yet to come online according to information provided
to Grits by Jason Clark, a TDCJ spokesperson. Here's the status of the
various treatment beds authorized and funded last year (adapted from
Intermediate Sanctions Facilities (ISF) -1400 beds allotted be
legislature, 250 are under contract.
The remaining 1150 are out on a RFP.
The responses are due back July 14th for those beds that are
available right now (fast track).
The RFP for those beds that have to be constructed (slow track) are due back November 14th.
Substance Abuse Felony Punishment (SAFP) -1500 allotted
588 "fast track" beds are already under contract. The remaining 912
are out on RFP due back November 14th.
These beds are online (see the Longview News Journal coverage of the
In-Prison Therapeutic Community (IPTC) treatment slots-1000 allotted
These beds are online
Transitional Treatment Center (TTC) -1250 allotted
We have gone through with the first round of RFP and are now on the
second round. The agency is working with existing vendors to vendors,
CSCD's, and Department of State Health Services to increase available
So 2,338 of the beds are already online out of 5,650 total, or 41%.
I was a little surprised at these numbers since TDCJ chief Brad
Livingston told the Legislature this spring that most of the beds
were already contracted.
Notably, the TTC beds are the only ones now on their second RFP.
Though Clark wouldn't confirm it, I'm told by sources in local
probation departments that's because no one submitted a proposal in
response to the request. (We won't know until November whether that
will be the case with other categories of beds not yet built.) All the
treatment beds proposed (except possibly for TTC) will be operated by
There's a fear among some local probation departments that by "working
with ... CSCDs," the state means they hope to dump aftercare duties on
county probation departments instead of contracting with vendors or
providing the services themselves. Right now such services fall under
the auspices of the TDCJ's parole division.
What's more, the TTC bed shortfall potentially thwarts larger
treatment and re-entry goals because they're part of a three phase
protocol designed for drug-addicted offenders - in fact, the same ones
occupying the SAFP and IPTC beds, both of whom enter TTC facilities
when their initial program is complete. From TDCJ's website:
The program consists of Phase I (Orientation) , a comprehensive
assessment and orientation of the Therapeutic Community; Phase II
(Main Treatment), which includes education, skills training, offender
lifestyle confrontation, family dynamics, and peer support groups; and
Phase III (Re-Entry), the education of offenders in the development of
social skills and the recognition of the triggers of relapse.
Upon completion of the SAFPF program, offenders are placed in a
community residential facility/Transition al Treatment Center for three
months, followed by outpatient treatment for up to twelve additional
The aftercare phase administers a diverse range of therapeutic,
residential, outpatient, and resource programs. The Special Needs
program provides educational components that address Axis I mental
disorders as well as personality disorders, medication regimentation,
and the interaction of disorders with substances of abuse.
TDCJ's website describes how the system is supposed to work in an
Transitional Treatment Center (TTC) - is targeted for those releasees
who have participated in the In-Prison Therapeutic Community (IPTC) or
Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (SAFP) programs. The TTC is
the aftercare component of the treatment program for releasees from
the IPTC and SAFP facilities, and lasts for three months.
An additional twelve months of outpatient care follows.
Specially trained parole officers supervise offenders.
These treatment beds as a package were the centerpiece of prison
diversion legislation enacted in 2007 aimed at reducing or ending
waiting lists for treatment programs required of certain offenders
before release. But the various facilities were designed to be
interdependent: If Texas expands SAFP and IPTC capacity but fails to
increase the number of TTC beds, it invites bottlenecks and release
delays that could continue to fill up scarce prison beds, disrupt
rehabilitation and stymie re-entry efforts.
TDCJ deserves credit for getting 40% of the beds rolled out within a
year after they were authorized, but those beds basically represent
all the existing capacity they could easily sop up. Most additional
beds will require new construction - or in the case of TTC beds,
possibly a new delivery model - meaning it could easily be another
couple of years before the treatment package authorized by the Texas
Legislature in 2007 becomes fully available.
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast
Labels: drug policy, Parole, Private prisons, Probation, Re-Entry,
Recidivism programs, TDCJ
Please Note: This Article comes from Utah but it is something that Texas Legislature may consider if the citizens direct their attention to it.
Getting clean in the criminal justice system
15 June 2008
Jeremy Duda - DAILY HERALD
Programs offer chance to kick their addictions
Any judge will tell you that the overwhelming majority of the
criminal cases they see are in some way linked to drug or alcohol
Judge Lynn Davis, of Provo's 4th District Court, estimates that 80-90
percent of his cases are drug- or alcohol-related. Property crimes,
theft, even sexual assaults, he said, can mostly be traced back to
substance abuse. Nearly all of the car and home burglary cases Davis
sees have drugs or alcohol as their root cause.
Oftentimes addicts steal to support their addictions to drugs such as
methamphetamine and Oxycontin. And many of the violent crimes Davis
sees can be chalked up to drug or alcohol use as well.
When it comes time for sentencing, the defendants' addictions are
taken into account.
"Drug and alcohol therapy are just an absolute prerequisite factor
component in sentencing. If you sentence without the benefit of drug
and alcohol therapy, you simply will see that person again. It
becomes a revolving door," Davis said.
Substance abuse treatment may be ordered for some defendants as a
part of their probation. Others may be eligible for programs such as
drug court, which allows offenders to have their crimes expunged from
their records once they complete the program. For the defendants who
find themselves behind bars, there are even programs at the Utah
But just as most people in the criminal justice system agree that
drugs are the primary driving force behind crime, there is also a
consensus that there aren't enough treatment options available for
those who need it, or enough funding for the programs that are out
"I apologize to the community for these behaviors, and I will change
Each Thursday at the Utah State Prison, that sentence is uttered
dozens of times. For residents of the Con-Quest program, a
residential drug treatment program, it is an acknowledgment that they
broke the rules, and a vow to their peers that the offending behavior
will be corrected.
Residents are held accountable by their peers for infractions such as
holding up the chow line, not making their beds properly or leaving
their section without identification. Inside Con-Quest, civics are
Though Con-Quest and Excell, its women's counterpart, are in-patient
substance abuse programs within the prison's barbed wire fences, they
are distinctly separate from the rest of the facility. To be eligible
for the program, inmates must be designated by the prison as addicts.
Residents of Con-Quest -- they are not referred to as inmates --
generally enter the program as a last step before they are paroled.
The program combines counseling to address the residents' substance
abuse issues with lessons intended to help change negative behaviors
that may have contributed to their problems.
"How you deal with relationships here can go home with you," said
Donna Kendall, the clinical therapist supervisor for the Con-Quest
Con-Quest has about 400 residents, while Excell has almost 150. On
Thursdays, the residents spend all day in their sections doing group
activities. Part of the day is spent doing relays, encounters and
haircuts, which are activities designed to address bad behavior or
broken rules while providing positive feedback. The Thursday groups
also involve community-building exercises such as conducting group
cheers and acting out skits.
The relays, encounters and haircuts are run by the residents
themselves, which is the overarching theme of Con-Quest and Excell.
"The object ... is to allow the inmates to be in charge of the
community," Kendall said.
Excell, Con-Quest's counterpart for female inmates, has a different
focus. Greg Hendrix, the Excell supervisor, said many of the women
are dealing with physical or sexual abuse issues that led many of
them to begin abusing drugs or alcohol in the first place.
So much of their therapy is designed to help address trauma or
self-worth issues, along with creating the relapse prevention and
pre-release plans the men work on. There is also a lot of focus on
parenting and healthy relationships, as well as classes through Salt
Lake Community College to provide marketable skills for the residents
once they are released.
Prison officials cite the programs as success stories based on the
number of graduates who recidivate, or relapse back into crime and
end up back in the court system.
Con-Quest graduates have an average recidivism rate of 20 percent,
according to Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman Angie
Welling. Inmates who don't go through the program have a recidivism
rate of 75-85 percent.
For Excell, the recidivism rate is about 22 percent. HOPE, a men's
program at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison that is
similar to Con-Quest, has a recidivism rate of about 33 percent.
The residents appear enthusiastic about the program. Some have been
through other rehabilitation programs before, but nothing quite like
"They've given me a lot of positive insight ... to not only become a
better person, but become a better father and a better husband," said
Nick Lovato, 32. Lovato, who is serving time for forgery and drug
possession, said he started living on the streets when he was 11
The program is conducive to change, said 37-year-old resident Richard
Eaton. If you're there long enough it not only makes you want to
change, but it gives you a plan for doing so.
"I've always had an idea of who I wanted to be, but now I have it on
paper. I have a map," said Eaton, who was convicted of aggravated
assault in 2006.
Many residents go through a gradual shift in their outlook as they go
through the program. As unit coordinators, Bryce Collings, John Bott
and Charles Cushing have been from one extreme to the other, and use
that experience to help others bridge the gap.
Unit coordinators are Con-Quest residents who help oversee the entire
program. The therapists who are over each section give directions to
the unit coordinators, who carry them out while making sure the dorms
run consistently and work closely with programming and security
officials to maintain stability.
"We're kind of like the peer leaders for the whole program," said
Collings, 33. Collings, who lived in Orem before going to prison, has
been incarcerated for nearly five years on an automobile homicide
New residents often come in with a "challenge authority" mentality,
said Bott, a 33-year-old Payson native who is serving time for
robbery, theft and attempted forgery. But after a while, Bott said,
you see that attitude start to change. The community aspect goes a
long way in assisting that process.
"They try to leave it up to us, you know, to start learning to pull
each other up, hold each other accountable and do it through a
therapeutic community other than through security. It's really cool
for us to have that opportunity, " Bott said.
On the other side of the bars
The Con-Quest and Excell programs seem successful, but judges want to
help people kick the drug habits that fuel their criminal behavior
before they wind up in prison, or even find themselves back in the
Some offenders can go through the state's drug court program, which
includes intensive therapy sessions and meetings. To complete the
program, participants must have full-time jobs, a high school diploma
or GED and must have been drug-free for at least six months. The
program lasts at least one year, and goes for as long as it takes
each participant to graduate.
Judge James Taylor, who oversees the Utah County 4th District Felony
Drug Court, said the relapse and recidivism rates for the program can
be difficult to track because participants' records are expunged once
they graduate, but the program is often cited as a success story
because of its low recidivism rate.
"I think recidivism in general treatment is something like 80
percent, and ... it's 10 percent in our program," he said. "That's a
pretty good rate."
Richard Nance, the director of the Utah County Division of Substance
Abuse, collaborates with the criminal justice system to provide
treatment for people who go through the court's system for drug-
Nance said the average adult client who finds treatment through the
division of substance abuse has had eight or more arrests, mostly
within the 12-18 months prior to treatment.
After treatment, they average about one arrest per year. Those
numbers go back as far as 1993.
Nance said they see about 2,000 clients a year.
For people who end up in the Utah County Jail, there is the OUT
program, which stands for On-Unit Treatment. It is open to anyone who
is serving more than 30 days in the jail.
Nance described OUT as a 30-day stabilization program to give
offenders a jump start on getting treatment when they leave the jail.
Officials at Con-Quest and Excell describe their programs as having a
Nance said re-arrest rates for jail inmates who don't take part in
OUT are about 33 percent higher than those who complete the program.
The promise Of DORA
The problem most of these programs encounter on a regular basis is a
lack of funding. Many of the programs, such as drug court and Con-
Quest, are successful, but there's never enough money to keep up with
demand, and the result is usually long waiting lists.
But recent legislation may help remedy that funding shortfall. In
2006 the state Legislature passed the Drug Offender Reform Act, or
DORA. Sponsored by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, DORA will
celebrate its one-year anniversary as a full-time program in July.
It was initially created as a three-year pilot program, but the state
decided to implement it as a full-time, statewide program after the
DORA's main component is treatment programs that serve as an
alternative to prison, Buttars said. Offenders can stay home, live
with their families and keep their jobs, all while receiving
treatment for substance abuse.
The level of treatment, as well as the length, depends on the needs of
"The whole principles were based on 'treatment works,' and we've
proven that over the years with our drug courts. It just takes it to
a whole new level," Buttars said. "Treatment works, but just locking
a person up doesn't."
Utah has about 6,600 incarcerated people, Buttars said, and in its
first year DORA has kept about 600 more from ending up behind bars.
Buttars thinks there are probably 2,500 people in the corrections
system at any given time that would fit DORA.
He pointed out that it costs the state $29,000 a year to keep someone
in prison, while it costs $4,200 a year to treat someone through
DORA. The state considered building a new 500-bed prison, Buttars
said, which had a price tag of about $80 million last year.
DORA had $8 million in funding during its first year, and in the 2009
fiscal year it will have $9 million. Buttars said he expects the
program to cost about $15 million a year when it is running at full
capacity, but given the costs of incarcerating people and building
new prisons, Buttars sees the cost as well worth it.
"You'll be saving ... a couple hundred million dollars a year," he
Mary Lou Emerson, the director of the Utah Substance Abuse and Anti-
Violence Coordinating Council, hopes to see DORA's funding peak at
about $17 million a year. There is a lot of hope that DORA funding
can provide more resources for other cash-starved programs, but the
money isn't there right now.
LOOKING FOR MORE
Across the board, officials say there is a need for more funding and
resources for treatment programs. Most have more demand than s upply,
and the result is countless people who are waiting for a chance to
If the number of available spots in drug court were doubled today,
Taylor said he could fill them immediately. Similarly, Con-Quest has
a waiting list of hundreds. Nance estimates that the Utah County
Division of Substance Abuse is able to provide treatment for only
about 10 percent of the county's residents who need it.
"Nationwide there isn't enough treatment for substance abusers, and
that holds true for Utah County too," he said. "Every public
substance abuse program is going to have a wait list."
Because the waiting lists have become so long over time, Emerson
feels the state may be fighting such battles for a long time. But
with programs like DORA in effect, she thinks Utah is moving in the
"The programs are very successful," she said. "If we could just
really have enough resources to treat that population in need, I
think we could have a huge impact. But we're doing the best we can in
Jeremy Duda can be reached at
344-2561 or email@example.com.
Programs offer chance to kick their addictions
Why Is Mom in Rehab?
By CHARLES M. BLOW
Published: June 14, 2008
The actress Tatum OâNeal was arrested recently on charges of buying crack cocaine from a man on the street near her New York City home. She is a 44-year-old mother of three. She has spent years in and out of drug abuse treatment (which she chronicled in her 2004 memoir), and according to her publicist she will continue to âattend meetingsâ for drug and alcohol abuse.
Ms. OâNeal illustrates a disturbing trend among those being admitted to substance abuse treatment services: a growing percentage of older women are being treated for harder drugs.
Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that the total number of admissions to treatment services from 1996 to 2005 (the last year for which detailed data are available) stayed about the same among people under 40, but jumped 52 percent among those 40 and older. Of the 40 and older group, the rise in admissions among men was 44 percent. Among women, it was 82 percent.
(During the same span, the population in the United States age 40 and older grew by only 19 percent.)
Of these women, admissions for nonsmoked cocaine have doubled; admissions for crack cocaine have tripled; admissions for opiates other than heroin have nearly quadrupled; and admissions for methamphetamines have increased sevenfold.
These trends could grow stronger. A 2006 report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse focused on drug use among baby boomers, all of whom were 41 to 59 years old in 2005. It concluded that âthe large size of this cohort, coupled with greater lifetime rates of drug use than previous generations, might result in unprecedented high numbers of older drug users in the next 15 to 20 years.â
There was a time when we thought that the biggest substance abuse threat to older women was alcoholism and abuse of prescription drugs.
Ten years ago this month, Betty Ford and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University issued a report called âUnder the Rug: Substance Abuse and the Mature Woman.â At the time, Joseph Califano, president of the center said: âAbuse and addiction to alcohol and psychoactive drugs and tobacco by women 60 and older is an inexcusable area of neglect.â
But since boomers canât seem to shake their street-drug demons, the focus needs to shift.
Why Is Mom in Rehab?
News: May 23, 2008
Rehabilitation or Torture?
Inmates charge privatized state 'rehab' program subjects women to
prolonged physical stress and degradation
By Patricia J. Ruland
Men would riot here. ï¿½ SAFPF inmate
What's worse than prison?
According to some former and current inmates, the state's Substance
Abuse Felony Punishment Facilities. Funded by the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice and staffed by Texas Department of Corrections
officers and personnel employed by nonprofit operator Gateway
Foundation of Chicago, the SAFPFs (referred to colloquially as "Safe-
Ps") in theory provide rehabilitation to nonviolent offenders
incarcerated for felony drug and alcohol convictions. Persons charged
with violating the terms of their probation or parole can be sent to
SAFPFs for treatment of their drug or alcohol addictions within the
TDCJ system, as a means of avoiding harsher punishment. On the
Gateway website, the foundation trumpets the low recidivism rates of
inmates who complete its corrections-based program and summarizes its
services: "Gateway operates nearly 25 corrections-based programs and
provides treatment to over 15,000 men, women, adolescents and dually
diagnosed substance abusers every year. Gateway treatment sites
utilize Therapeutic Community paradigms, and are supplemented by
Cognitive Self-Change methods."
But judging from more than a dozen narratives written by female SAFPF
inmates and recently provided to Austin attorney Derek Howard, such
facilities ï¿½ which in Texas currently house 900 female inmates ï¿½ in
reality may be employing unconstitutionally cruel and unusual
punishment. Some women incarcerated and assigned to SAFPF programs
say they have been routinely deprived, humiliated, and degraded.
Among other allegations, the women have charged they must often sit
silently, rigidly, face-forward, in plastic chairs for long hours or
days, occasionally through periods of weeks on end, sometimes as an
individual punishment, at other times in collective punishment they
fear and loathe as "the dreaded tighthouse."
To Howard's knowledge, no official Gateway/TDCJ therapeutic or
disciplinary protocol recommends or allows a treatment so extreme as
a "tighthouse." To the contrary, a Gateway official described
tighthouse as a limited and carefully monitored therapeutic practice,
but the inmates' descriptions of tighthouse (or "the chairs"), as a
form of arbitrary and often harsh punishment, are starkly different
from the official description. Women write, "It just is," and is "a
Considering the women's accounts, Howard is concerned the state of
Texas may be funding, wittingly or unwittingly, what amounts to
torture. "Torture is defined as 'the infliction of intense pain.'
Forcing someone to sit in a hard chair for 16 hours a day constitutes
torture, by anyone's standards," Howard argues. "We are now
considering suing Gateway for violating the Eighth Amendment, which
prohibits cruel and unusual punishment."
The inmate complaints have prompted an ongoing investigation by the
state Office of Inspector General, whose investigators have been
interviewing inmates on-site since January in the Halbert Unit in
Burnet County and perhaps at other sites. According to Inspector
General John Moriarty, the agency plans to conclude its inquiry soon;
in late April he provided his "courtesy preliminary conclusion" to
the Chronicle: that not one of the inmate allegations of abuse has
been confirmed. (TDCJ officials, citing the open inspector general
investigation, have declined to answer questions about SAFPFs.)
Moriarty added that investigators found such "a preponderance of
evidence" refuting the allegations that polygraphs (presumably of
inmates only) were deemed unnecessary. Howard, interpreting
Moriarty's suggestion as tantamount to an accusation of inmate
collusion, countered, "It's ridiculously unlikely that the women got
together and fabricated the allegations." Howard promised that
whatever the inspector general's response, his own investigation
'Fairness and Vindication'
In January, after witnessing what she considered a particularly
abusive "therapeutic" episode, an inmate named Jodi Stodder-Caldwell
(who had landed a six-month stint in an SAFPF after a complicated
dispute with the parole bureaucracy and is now a resident in a
College Station halfway house) decided she could sit silently no
more. She persuaded more than a dozen others to join her in sending
to Howard their personal accounts of the SAFPF practices. "Nothing
bad can come of this," Stodder-Caldwell told her fellow inmates,
because she believed relief and justice were finally possible. The
inmates wrote mainly of their experiences in the Ellen Halbert Unit
in Burnet County but also concerning the Hackberry Unit in Gates
ville. Inmates speculated that lawyers and the judges who assign
women to the program ï¿½ presented as an alternative to a conventional
prison sentence ï¿½ may not know what an SAFPF is really like in actual
practice. "No one was able to tell me the therapeutic value of the
chairs and how it is to help me in my recovery to remain sober," one
SAFPF staffers "tell us this is what we deserve, and it is all our
fault," said Stodder-Caldwell. Wrote another, "Mr. Howard, I write
this statement to you in the interest of fairness as well as
vindication for those who do not have the resources to defend
themselves, while being engulfed in a system hell-bent on sadistic
punishment, a system that wears a mask for the public to maintain an
image of integrity and altruism, when in reality the very rules and
ideals this institution claims to instill in us to function in
society are the ones they cannot seem to grasp themselves."
The Official Response
Asked for a response to the inmates' charges, Gateway President and
CEO Michael Darcy disputed the inmates' accounts of the use of the
tighthouse as "false," insisting that it is a carefully limited
method designed to aid in the inmates' rehabilitation. Darcy insisted
on written questions via e-mail and responded accordingly. "The
therapeutic community model adopted by TDCJ has been one of the most
effective means of reducing recidivism. A tighthouse [or Tight House]
is a regular and integral part of the process of the 'Therapeutic
Community' that is called for by the staff when the behaviors and
attitudes of the clients need to be refocused on recovery issues."
Darcy continued: "Clients attend treatment programming for 4 hrs,
either in the AM or PM. Gateway Foundation staff provide the
educational groups. Each group will last 50 minutes with a 10 minute
"The clients may change rooms depending on the group. Chairs are
provided for all clients to write and complete assignments."
In contrast, inmates directly subjected to tighthouse ï¿½ as they say
it is actually practiced ï¿½ condemn this and other SAFPF practices as
patently counterproductive to recovery. "I feel like a prisoner of
war," wrote one woman, and, "This is not rehabilitation ï¿½ it's
torture," wrote another. Stodder-Caldwell, who had spent some time in
Texas prisons in the mid-Nineties, before landing in the SAFPF
program last year, summed up a common inmate sentiment. "At the
toughest women's prison in Texas, I was never forced to endure abuse
I have suffered at Halbert."
Under the psychological principles of "therapeutic communities,"
SAFPFs in theory try to rehabilitate inmates' "morals" or characters
along with their behavior. But inmates claim the punitive underbelly
of the project is that under the guise of "therapy," women are often
treated like misbehaving children who require severe punishment. For
example, inmates say that SAFPF staff regularly direct inmates "to
clean out your baby gut" ï¿½ that is, "grow up" and admit their faults
aloud to everyone. Disciplinary invectives from staff, inmates
report, are often highly personal and intentionally wounding ï¿½ most
pointedly, targeting the inmates' worries and guilt concerning their
families. "We would [hear] that our kids were better off with us
gone," one inmate wrote, or that they didn't love their mothers.
Staff allegedly brand pregnant inmates as "whores" or tell inmates
disdainfully, for example, "I bet your baby has a black father."
Inmates argue that Gateway SAFPFs effectively target women who've
already suffered abuse throughout their lives, who perhaps have even
learned to expect such treatment, leaving them with "no concept of
civil rights," Stodder-Caldwell wrote.
According to the inmates, the questionable practices extend to
medical matters, although Gateway CEO Darcy firmly responded that
TDCJ, not Gateway, is responsible for the medical treatment of
inmates, and TDCJ declined to answer any questions about conditions
in SAFPFs. In practice, inmates charge, such division of
responsibility is seldom clear, and the lines of authority are often
blurred. According to the inmate narratives, staff, like abusive
parents, repeatedly scold inmates as "whiny" or order them to "get
out" when they seek medical help. For example, after a seizure caused
a woman to tumble from her bunk to the concrete and left several
knots on her head, she asked to be "laid in" (for rest and
treatment), only to be refused by a nurse. Women also report that
within the program itself, many medicines are frowned upon or banned
ï¿½ occasionally even antibiotics, so women who contract staph
infections must endure open sores. "This is obscene!" one inmate
exclaimed. Another inmate said that a handicapped woman had been
forced to march on crutches and had contracted a staph infection
under her arms.
Stodder-Caldwell wrote that she suffered hearing loss when denied
antibiotics for an ear infection. Inmates say another inmate's
chemotherapy, begun before she entered the program, had been halted
without reason; other inmates reported that gynecological exams are
so rough that bleeding can last for days. Inmates say that rather
than be provided real treatment by medical personnel, they'd hear
callous staff ask, laughing, whether they'd gotten their "miracle
water." Stodder-Caldwell explained: "There is a common joke among the
staff. When anyone goes to medical for any reason, they tell them
they need to drink more water and dismiss the complaints. The staff
jokingly ask when someone comes back from medical if they were given
Another former inmate, now a resident in a halfway house, says she
received an abnormal Pap smear in April 2007 while in TDCJ. She was
given antibiotics, but officials took no further medical action
during her imprisonment. She entered SAFPF at Halbert in October and
reported to staff a continuing discharge, but medical staff declined
to schedule additional tests during the several months she was in the
program. After leaving SAFPF, she consulted a private doctor and has
been diagnosed with a softball-size uterine tumor and is still
waiting to find out if she has cancer.
Another inmate recounted "mind-crushing" therapeutic mind games,
designed in theory to break down emotional resistance to treatment
but, in practice, effectively pushing inmates to "the snapping
point." Inmates say the Gateway program's therapy groups ï¿½ said to be
designed especially for women and which they are required to refer to
as their prison "family" ï¿½ routinely deteriorate into humiliating and
unendurable pabulum. Stodder-Caldwell wrote that during her stay in
SAFPF, inmates were required to spend several hours a week singing
children's songs, like "B-I-N-G-O" or "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."
Groups occasionally erupt into pseudo-therapeutic feeding frenzies,
inmates charge, due to program rules that women must "tell on" each
other or face their own punishments. Heads of inmate-run
"governments" (appointed by staff) supervise their subordinate
"expediters" and mete out sanctions. What is often "expedited,"
inmates say, is desperate self-preservation, through "spying and
"They drive us to exhaustion, and then pit us against each other,"
one account states. To attorney Howard, the practice of forced-
informing and imposed inmate hierarchies is reminiscent of the
Stockholm syndrome found in prisoner-of-war camps, in which prisoners
are conditioned to identify with their captors. Women also report
being punished for not anticipating others' infractions and reporting
them to guards in advance. One former inmate lamented wryly, "Sir, I
do not possess the power of precognition."
The women's most dramatic and insistent complaints concern the
individual and collective punishment known as "tighthouse." By their
accounts, Gateway's exaggerated time-out-style punishment (or
"therapy") has evolved in practice into a marathon form of physical
and psychological brutality. One inmate wrote: "I was sitting in
chairs for so long, my knees hurt, my back hurt, my head hurt. I was
about to lose my mind." Another woman says she experienced "almost
unbearable" joint pain from aggravated scoliosis and fibromyalgia, as
well as excruciating bowel, kidney, and bladder discomfort.
Inmates so fear tighthouse that staff routinely use it as a
disciplinary threat, taunting, "It is coming." If women see two or
more counselors at their door, they fear they are headed for "the
chairs." More often, they say, a tighthouse hits without warning.
"After work one day ... the guards were yelling and screaming,
telling us to hurry. The older and weaker had trouble carrying their
things, and if we tried to help, we were threatened," an inmate
recalled. "I walked past an older black lady on the ground begging
for help." One woman recounted a 2002 tighthouse in Gatesville that
involved an entire unit of several hundred women, which she says
lasted, in varying degrees of intensity, for 42 days. For several
weeks, she wrote, inmates were confined to chairs for as much as 16
hours a day (roughly from 4am to 8pm) in an "extremely hot" gym, with
only brief bathroom breaks and minimal meals. In the remaining hours,
they were expected to complete all work duties, other program
obligations, and attend to any other personal needs.
According to her written account, during the "tighthouse" hours in
the chairs, "people were passing out and breaking down," forbidden
behaviors that resulted in additional punishment. Moreover, she
wrote, that during these weeks of collective punishment, "There were
several suicide attempts, and at one point I thought the inmates were
going to riot."
Several inmate narratives recount another particularly disturbing
incident at the Halbert Unit this year, during which a Hispanic
inmate paid an additional price after being sucker-punched by another
inmate (who was placed in segregation). According to Stodder-Caldwell
and other inmates, the assaulted woman (who had not retaliated) was
singled out for exemplary retribution for having been in a fight. As
the inmates tell it, in advance of a group meeting, SAFPF personnel
deliberately fomented a "mob mentality" by threatening all the
inmates with "chairs" unless they reported the designated inmate's
every negative behavior at the upcoming session. The unsuspecting
woman finally entered the room for what Stodder-Caldwell described as
a brutal "tribunal." "It was like watching a pack of wolves," Stodder-
Caldwell wrote. "She was the sacrificial lamb used to teach us a
lesson ï¿½ to kill or be killed." According to the inmates, such group
criticism sessions served both to punish transgressing inmates and
enforce group discipline ï¿½ those who refuse to participate by
accusing their neighbors of infractions are themselves subject to
Stodder-Caldwell, who speaks some Spanish, says she refused to
participate, instead whispering over and over, "I am your friend,"
all the while feverishly translating the inmates' criticisms from
English to Spanish. According to Stodder-Caldwell, after the
tribunal, the punished woman was forced to sit at a school desk in a
corner, 16 hours a day, for a period of weeks, with no communication
and only limited food and bathroom breaks. It was watching the
unfortunate woman "doing her best to hold on," day after day, "tears
streaming down her face," that finally led Stodder-Caldwell to
contact Howard. The woman suffered further punishment, according to
Stodder-Caldwell, by having five months of her six-month SAFPF
program revoked. Then she was transferred back to county jail, then
back to Halbert for yet another stint in SAFPF, where she remains.
Standard Operating Policy
The difference between the inmate accounts and Gateway's official
description of its program is dramatic. Darcy characterized inmate
descriptions of tighthouse as inaccurate and "very bizarre." "The
information given to you about a Tighthouse is false," Darcy wrote in
his e-mail, explaining that an official program tighthouse lasts four
hours, with breaks, according to a written "standard operating
policy" approved by TDCJ. Women "may change rooms depending on the
group," he wrote, noting "chairs are provided for all clients to
write and complete assignments." In Darcy's judgment, the collective
therapy practice employed at SAFPF facilities as "tighthouse" serves
a worthwhile purpose: "This is a learning experience that stresses
all clients of the treatment community have responsibility not only
for themselves," he wrote, "but for the community as a whole." (TDCJ
officials declined to answer questions about the SAFPF program or any
policy concerning it.)
Concerning inmates' general accusations of abuse, Darcy insisted in a
telephone interview that "staff are not allowed to abuse clients,"
adding that inmates may file complaints with SAFPF officers. When
told inmates say that even formal grievances go nowhere, Darcy
changed course, stating inmates could complain to Gateway directly,
as well as to guards. Categorically defending SAFPF, Darcy also
wrote, "I would urge you to visit a program to see the remarkable
work that TDCJ is doing to reduce recidivism, saving the taxpayers of
Texas a substantial amount of money."
Asked about inmates' medical complaints, Darcy reiterated his
distinction ï¿½ that Gateway is responsible for inmate rehabilitation,
while TDCJ is responsible for inmate health care. The two separate
roles better not be "bundled up" in an article, he warned. However,
inmates report that for them the line is often blurred between
Gateway and TDCJ staff and that disagreements between the two groups
of officials about appropriate policy concerning medical care as well
as other matters lead to confusion and distress among inmates. "I am
always afraid," wrote one inmate. "TDCJ has a strict set of rules
that are clearly defined. ... Gateway has a separate set of rules
that are neither concrete nor provided. The Gateway rules change from
counselor to counselor, and from day to day. The counselors are fond
of saying: 'Nothing's constant at SAFPF but change.'"
As of May 12, TDCJ staff continued to decline comment because of the
open investigation. "We don't correspond back and forth about an
investigation or an alleged investigation. It's best you talk to
[Inspector General] John Moriarty," said TDCJ media representative
Jason Clark, who declined to review inmate allegations. Moriarty, on
the other hand, seemed unaware of the precise substance of the
allegations he is charged with investigating. He said inspectors had
turned up no evidence that the women are required to "stand" for long
periods of time. When informed the charge was that they had to sit,
not stand, he scoffed, "Stand or sit? I don't have the report in
front of me." Moriarty also claimed, incorrectly, that the women had
alleged they weren't allowed to use the bathroom, raising the
question of how much he even knows about the findings and therefore
how he was able to make a sound judgment of the validity of the
preliminary conclusion of no abuse.
Upset that the inspector general would reflexively side with Gateway
and TDCJ, Stod der-Caldwell was nonetheless resolute, insisting that
she and the other inmates are telling the truth. "I'm not surprised
at all, because they have so much to cover up," she said. "If the
public knew what went on in there, how would [the staff] defend their
In the aftermath of the allegations, the stakes for current or former
SAFPF inmates remain very high. Inmates say they are careful to walk
the line even after they've left SAFPF and are worried that speaking
out will lead to retaliation, perhaps including revocation of their
parole or probation. Could the fear of retaliation be a possible
explanation why women "no longer under the care and control of
Gateway," in Moriarty's words, failed to corroborate others'
allegations to the inspector general? Moriarty declined comment.
Now that the inspector general investigation is nearly concluded,
there could also be severe consequences for still-incarcerated SAFPF
inmates. "If the warden and counselors have no consequences, they
will come down on the girls with a vengeance," said Ken Caldwell,
Jodi Stodder-Caldwell's husband.
As to Moriarty's preliminary assertion that no abuse was found to
have occurred, Stodder-Caldwell replied: "Oh, please! It happens on a
daily basis." She's especially disheartened that her friend who'd
been punched in the face is now right back where she was so
mistreated, enduring another six-month stint in SAFPF.
Rehabilitation or Torture?
Copyright ï¿½ 2008 Austin Chronicle Corporation.
Anyone who participated in the SAFP Program
provided by Gateway Foundation and want to
file a complaint through "Gateway To Hell" Web Site
Please email: GATEWAY TO HELL ~ASAP~!
All Complaints will be kept confidential!
A Powerful Statement to think about that concerns SAFP Program By- Gateway:
Both in theory and in practice psychiatric "therapy/treatment" in
Prisons is punishment and torture.
Punishment has long been an important tool of psychiatric "therapy" and social control and for that reason punitive "therapies" find a warm welcome among
governments and administrators of punitive institutions such as
As our society slowly turns away from official endorsement of harsh
punishment and torture, governments and penal administrators turn
increasingly to therapy-as-punishment to inflict controls which, if
called punishment and torture would be clearly illegal and immoral
human right violations.
Researchers work on cocaine vaccine
January 2, 2008
HOUSTON ï¿½ Two Baylor College of Medicine researchers in Houston are
working on a cocaine vaccine they hope will become the first-ever
medication to treat people hooked on the drug.
"For people who have a desire to stop using, the vaccine should be
very useful," said Dr. Tom Kosten, a psychiatry professor who is
being assisted in the research by his wife, Therese, a psychologist
and neuroscientist. "At some point, most users will give in to
temptation and relapse, but those for whom the vaccine is effective
won't get high and will lose interest."
The vaccine, currently in clinical trials, stimulates the immune
system to attack the real thing when it's taken.
The immune system ï¿½ unable to recognize cocaine and other drug
molecules because they are so small ï¿½ can't make antibodies to attack
To help the immune system distinguish the drug, Dr. Kosten attached
inactivated cocaine to the outside of inactivated cholera proteins.
In response, the immune system not only makes antibodies to the
combination, which are harmless, but also recognizes the potent naked
drug when it's ingested. The antibodies bind to the cocaine and
prevent it from reaching the brain, where it normally would generate
the highs that are so addictive.
"It's a very clever idea," says David Eagleman, a Baylor
neuroscientist. "Scientists have spent the last few decades figuring
out reward pathways in the brain and how drugs like cocaine hijack
the system. It turns out those pathways are difficult to rewire once
they've seen the drug. But the vaccine just circumvents all that."
Researchers work on cocaine vaccine
Column - Hal Don House:
Prison not part of solution to drug, alcohol addiction
Publication Date: 12/12/07
Addiction is an illness and cannot be treated successfully by
The war on drugs has been lost since it began. The people who make
the laws are well aware of this, but they can't do anything about it
because the people who elect them do not understand this.
People start using alcohol or other drugs for a variety of reasons.
Some become addicted; some do not. Much of this is determined by
People do not choose to be addicted. They may make bad choices in
beginning this process, but once addicted, it is not a choice. This
cycle can be broken, but incarceration seldom works. Treatment can
work, but people seldom get that option anymore. Texas Gov. Ann
Richards understood this process and was building treatment centers
all over the state when she lost her re-election bid in 1994.
The majority of people in prison in Texas, and throughout the nation,
are there because of their addiction to alcohol or other drugs. Do
they realize this? Not often. Denial is the most powerful symptom of
chemical dependency. Addiction is the only disease that tells you
that you don't have it.
For many years, I talked to every person released from prison and
placed on parole in Amarillo who had a history of drug or alcohol
use. Very few of them were aware of the real reason they went to
prison. Untreated, such individuals are doomed to repeat the same
mistakes they made in the past. Prisons and jails are filled to the
top with these people.
I grew up in the 1960s, when "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" was our
motto. Most of us used alcohol and all the other drugs available to
us. Some of us became addicted; some did not. I was fortunate to get
into treatment in October 1984 and have been clean and sober ever since.
I started working at the Panhandle Alcohol Recovery Center in 1992 to
help others learn how to treat this deadly disease. I have worked at
the Pavilion, in the prisons and recently retired from the parole
office here in Amarillo.
There is no easy solution to this problem. I certainly am not saying
people should not be held accountable for their actions; I'm just
saying that what we are doing is not working. There needs to be more
education about this disease at every level.
Amarillo's parole officers are good people who try hard to help these
offenders get back on their feet and stay out of prison. But with
little knowledge or understanding about addiction and no means to
treat these people, parole officers' hands are tied. This is true of
the whole criminal justice system. Efforts are being made, but the
bulk of available funds is spent to lock addicts up and keep them
If we are going to imprison people for buying and using marijuana or
cocaine, perhaps we should do the same with sugar. How many people in
this country are obese and killing themselves because of their
addiction to unhealthy foods? Addiction is the same disease,
regardless of what we are addicted to. We have always found ways to
change the way we feel, whether it be through chemicals,
relationships, sex, exercise, shopping, gambling, TV - you name it. A
behavior has become an addiction when it starts causing problems and
we are unable to control it.
Does putting a person in jail ever cure them of their addiction? No,
it doesn't. Addiction is a bio-psycho-social disease, and its
physical, mental and social aspects must be treated. It takes time,
effort and money. For the addict, it is an ongoing process that lasts
It is not an easy task. Whatever we are addicted to is always there
waiting for us. Denial comes in and tells us that just one won't
hurt. Just one beer or one joint or one pill or one shot. But if you
are an addict, one is too many and a thousand is not enough.
How many addicts/alcoholics are there in Amarillo? I know they would
not all fit in the Civic Center.
The problem is vast, and the way we have been dealing with it is not
Hal Don House is a recently retired parole officer/counselor and an
Amarillo business owner.
Click here to read story:
ï¿½ The Amarillo Globe-News Online
DRUG COURTS CAN KEEP ADDICTS IN TREATMENT
AND OUT OF JAIL ï¿½ IF JUDGES LET THEM
November 30, 2007
For nearly 20 years, Joel Bennett shuttled drug addicts through
courtrooms. He dutifully sent them off to prison, first as a
prosecutor and later as a state district judge in Austin, though he
knew he was accomplishing little. Incarceration wouldnï¿½t puncture
their addiction. They would use again. Predictably, case files
bearing familiar names would pile again on his desk. A sense of
futility hung over the exercise. ï¿½What I saw was the same people
returning to the system over and over again. And their children
coming into the system,ï¿½ Bennett says. ï¿½No one talked about breaking
the cycle of crime.ï¿½ Bennett recognized, as an ever-growing number of
judges do, that to keep drug offenders from landing back in prison,
he had to help addicts free themselves from the fog of substance abuse.
Bennett and Leon Grizzard are the two judges who oversee Travis
Countyï¿½s drug diversion court. They steer addicts into a court-
supervised treatment program instead of prison. In the past decade,
drug courts like the one in Travis County have successfully handled
nonviolent defendants with drug and alcohol addictionsï¿½if success is
defined as increasing public safety at the least cost to the
taxpayer. People who complete drug-court programs rarely tumble back
into substance abuse. According to four drug-court judges surveyed,
about 10 percent of program graduates commit new crimesï¿½a recidivism
rate roughly one-fifth that of traditional probation routines. That
means drug courts can ease the strain on overcrowded prisons and save
taxpayer money. A study of the Dallas drug court by Southern
Methodist University showed that every government dollar spent on
diversion courts saved taxpayers more than $9.
Though criminal justice reform groups have advocated drug courts for
years, Texas until recently lagged behind the rest of the country.
There are more than 1,200 drug courts nationwide, according to the
U.S. Department of Justice. At one time, tiny Delaware had more drug
courts than the Lone Star State. But Texasï¿½ bulging prison system is
forcing Texas to catch up. Drug courts in Texas have ballooned from
three in 2002 to 35 in 2007. The movement has sprung organically from
the bottom up: Judges, prosecutors, counselors, and county officials
have volunteered to create the programs in their jurisdictions.
ï¿½Anyone who hears this becomes an advocate for it,ï¿½ says Ana Yï¿½ï¿½ez-
Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
ï¿½Itï¿½s been a domino effect.ï¿½
More drug courts are on the way. Last spring, the Texas Legislature
passed a bill requiring all counties with populations exceeding
200,000 to institute a drug court. The bill is expected to divert
more than 2,300 addicts away from prisons during the next few years.
In late October, Gov. Rick Perry awarded $4.4 million in state grants
to drug courts, a much-needed boost in funding.
But as drug courts become more widespread, it appears thatï¿½like the
narcotics they were created to fightï¿½the courts can be abused. State
and federal governments have instituted few regulations and set up no
oversight. Judges have wide latitude to decide peopleï¿½s fates. In the
hands of the right judges, the drug court model performs marvelously.
Other judges appear to have trouble reconciling their punitive role
with this new therapeutic one. The U.S. Department of Justice
designed a set of guidelines and best practicesï¿½but theyï¿½re the
criminal justice equivalent of blueprints without building codes. The
guidelines suggest that judges receive ongoing training and partner
with treatment programs and community groups.
Because drug courts grow mostly from the local level, there is little
standardization. Texas law broadly defines a drug court, but places
hardly any restrictions on what judges can do. There is no oversight
specifically for the drug courts. A recent case in Houston
demonstrates the potential risks behind the courtsï¿½ expansion. Judge
K. Michael Mayes of Montgomery County is facing a federal lawsuit by
a defendant who claims his treatment in Mayesï¿½ drug court was
arbitrary and violated his rights to due process.
ï¿½The issue is following best practices,ï¿½ Yï¿½ï¿½ez-Correa says. In 2005,
the group worked successfully with legislators to add to the budget
bill some loosely standardized requirements for drug courts.
Ostensibly, if a program takes state money, itï¿½s required to follow
the Justice Departmentï¿½s broad guidelines for drug courts, including
a recommendation that defense attorneys be present at all hearings.
ï¿½Weï¿½ve taken the first step to make sure there is an expansion of the
drug courts,ï¿½ she says. ï¿½Now, as the program increases, those who
havenï¿½t tried it before need technical assistance from judges who are
doing it right.ï¿½
On a Wednesday night in early November, recovering addicts streamed
into a drab courtroom in downtown Austin for their regular drug court
session. The court, the second-oldest in Texas, has been in operation
since 1993. Seated in the audience was a young, diverse crowd: white,
black, and Latino; rich and poor; businessmen; college students; and
manual laborers. Judge Bennett took the bench. On this night, the
first order of business was a graduation. Each drug court is different
ï¿½localities design their own programs and decide who can be admitted
to themï¿½but the foundations are the same. Prosecutors or judges refer
nonviolent addicts or alcoholics to drug courts, which oversee
treatment. Judges, along with teams of probation officers, attorneys,
counselors, and family members, monitor each addictï¿½s progress. On
average, it takes 22 months for defendants to complete the Austin
programï¿½s three phases, after which their charges will be dismissed
and, in some cases, expunged. If graduates remain clean, it can be as
if they were never arrested.
The bailiff called a name, and a young black man with braided hair in
a red button-down shirt, tie, and black pants rose and walked before
Bennett. (Drug courts are confidential, and the Observer was allowed
to witness the proceedings on the condition that participantsï¿½ names
wouldnï¿½t be printed.) ï¿½I know youï¿½ve thought a lot about what you
wanted to say,ï¿½ Bennett said. ï¿½Now I want you to address the group.ï¿½
The young man turned to face a roomful of fellow recovering addicts.
His feet poked at the carpet. He clasped his hands behind his back.
ï¿½These people are really here to help you,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½I used to see
it as a burden. Now I see it as a blessing.ï¿½ He looked sheepishly at
Bennett. ï¿½Is that enough?ï¿½ he whispered.
ï¿½No, thatï¿½s not enough,ï¿½ Bennett bellowed. The audience laughed. The
young man stumbled on for another minute, describing the stubbornness
of his addiction, until Bennett smiled. ï¿½OK, Iï¿½m proud of you. Letï¿½s
give him a hand. Heï¿½s done a great job.ï¿½ Everyone applauded. The
young man walked through the courtroomï¿½s double doors and, perhaps,
into a life clear of addictionï¿½or so Bennett hopes. Though drug
courts offer a way to avoid prison time, the programs can be
demanding: several counseling sessions a week, community service,
weekly random drug tests, support group meetings, and frequent
appearances before the judge are common. If a defendant stumbles, the
judge can send them to jail for several days. If someone drops out,
they likely will end up in prison.
Bennett questioned defendants in various stages of the program. They
stood alone, directly in front of the bench, like kids before the
teacherï¿½s desk. Drug court sessions are part probation hearing and
part counseling session. The jagged edge of law enforcement blends
with the encouragement of 12-step recovery programs. The result is
addicts standing before judges, prosecutors, and probation officersï¿½
people who normally try to put them awayï¿½to divulge the most intimate
and important details of their lives. During visits to hearings in
several Texas cities, the Observer witnessed a woman ask a judge for
help with a divorce, and another who inquired if having a child would
impact her recovery. Several participants asked for help finding jobs.
ï¿½Youï¿½re studying for your GED? Howï¿½s that going?ï¿½ Bennett asked one
man in a striped shirt. Another wanted permission to travel to
Houston to see his family for Thanksgiving, which Bennett grudgingly
approved as long as the man kept up his community service. The random
drug tests donï¿½t halt for the holidays, either.
Next, Bennett brought forward a short, white youth who, despite
several stints of rigorous inpatient drug treatment, had just tested
positive for marijuana on his first urine sample in the program.
ï¿½Itï¿½s like you havenï¿½t learned anything,ï¿½ Bennett yelled at him.
ï¿½Each time you use, youï¿½re going to jail. Iï¿½ve done that before.ï¿½ As
the kid slinked away, the judge eased back into a warmer tone: ï¿½Letï¿½s
give him a hand to encourage him.ï¿½ Everyone clapped.
In Corpus Christi, District Judge Sandra Watts has run the drug court
for nearly four years. Her intimate, Tuesday-night court sessions
have become known as ï¿½Tuesdays with Sandra.ï¿½ She says, ï¿½Iï¿½m a
different judge on Tuesday nights than I am during the day. There is
a different philosophy when youï¿½re running a drug court. There is a
rapport being developed between the participants and the judge. I
know a lot about their lives.ï¿½
In the last 10 years, District Judge John Creuzot has molded Dallas
Countyï¿½s drug court into one of the most extensive and successful
diversion programs in the state. (Watts referred to him as the drug
court ï¿½granddaddy.ï¿½) In Dallas, addicts receive a clinical assessment
when they enter the program to determine the kind of treatment they
need, including mental health assistance. Many drug courts attempt to
treat the root of the defendantï¿½s addiction. But with the ability to
refer addicts to a wider range of treatment facilities, Dallas may
have the model program. The essential element that such courts must
share, Creuzot says, is that treatment cannot work unless a judge
connects with an addict.
ï¿½The point is to get as far in [to peopleï¿½s lives] as you can, and to
get to know them,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½Itï¿½s a different mind-set. You have to
be engaged in who they are ... what their strengths and weaknesses
are. Not everyone wants to do that.
ï¿½You have to develop trust between them and you. They have to trust
that youï¿½re making decisions in their best interests, because theyï¿½re
not accustomed to that in the criminal justice system. Nobody is,
really. They have to get to know you and trust you and the decisions
youï¿½re making on their behalf.ï¿½
Violating the rules of a program might land some participants in jail
for the weekend to set them straight. But Austinï¿½s Judge Bennett says
itï¿½s important not to punish too severely. ï¿½Iï¿½m not trying to break
them down,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½Iï¿½m trying to build them back up. I want them
to feel better about themselves.ï¿½
Paul Burns never considered himself an addict, though he concedes he
drank too often. At 46, Burns lives near Conroe, a growing exurb
north of Houston, with his wife and four kids. He operates a small
oil companyï¿½it has eight wellsï¿½along with several other small
His trouble with drug court began last April. Burnsï¿½already on
probation for a minor drug possession chargeï¿½submitted a urine sample
that tested positive for alcohol, a violation of his probation. Judge
Mayes of Montgomery Countyï¿½s 410th District Court gave Burns a
choice: Enter Mayesï¿½ drug court treatment program, or the judge would
revoke Burnsï¿½ probation and send him to prison for several years.
Burns didnï¿½t see that as much of a choice. He joined Mayesï¿½ Substance
Abuse Program. In addition to counseling and support group sessions,
offenders in the program must submit to several random urine tests
each month. On July 5, Burns was called in for a random drug test.
His sample tested negative for drugs and alcohol, according to court
records, but the sample was labeled ï¿½dilute,ï¿½ which means,
essentially, it was watered down. (Addicts sometimes try to dilute
their urine to mask evidence of drug use.) Under Mayesï¿½ strict
policies, anyone submitting a diluted urine sample is immediately
hauled off to jail, without a hearing to explain themselves to the
Burns contends heï¿½s been sober for eight months. He says he skipped
breakfast on the morning of his urine test and drank several cups of
coffee, which diluted his urine. He was shocked it landed him in jail.
Burns remained there for 44 days, until late August. Five others in
Mayesï¿½ program have been jailed in recent months because of a diluted
urine sample, according to court records. Burns also claims that
Mayes barred him from contacting his family during his stint in the
His lawsuit, filed in federal court, contends that his jailing
without an opportunity to challenge his detention or go before a
judge violated his constitutional right to due process. Normally,
judges have wide discretion in handling offenders on probation. But
Randall Kallinen, a Houston civil rights attorney whoï¿½s representing
Burns, argues that probation requirements canï¿½t violate someoneï¿½s
civil rights. ï¿½Thereï¿½s nothing in the Code of Criminal Procedure that
says you canï¿½t give an African American two extra years in prison
because heï¿½s an African American. Thatï¿½s not written down anywhere,
but everyone knows federal law wonï¿½t allow it. Itï¿½s a civil rights
Mayes has refused to comment on the suit. He didnï¿½t return two calls
from the Observer seeking comment. But when the Observer visited
Mayesï¿½ court in early Novemberï¿½before the lawsuit was filedï¿½the judge
argued that his policies helped free offenders from their addictions.
Mayesï¿½ program does boast a record of success. Of the 41 people who
have graduated from his program, he says not a single one has
committed another drug offense. Several offenders in the drug court
that morning sobbed and effusively thanked Mayes for helping them
fight addiction and stay out of jail.
ï¿½The immediate sanction, immediate consequence is huge. Everyone in
the program knows it,ï¿½ Mayes says. ï¿½Probation officers know in this
court that if somebody has a [urine test] that looks like itï¿½s
diluted or maybe itï¿½s a positive, they donï¿½t file motions and wait
for me to sign something. They immediately type up a one-page sheetï¿½
order of arrestï¿½and we sign.
ï¿½Hereï¿½s my philosophy: Youï¿½re on probation. I donï¿½t have to prove
youï¿½re dirty; you have to prove to me youï¿½re clean. You know why
thatï¿½s so fair? This is what I tell them: Letï¿½s say you apply for a
job, youï¿½re going to have to prove to them youï¿½re clean, sober, doing
well. So when you get out in the real world, you can handle the real
heat. So thatï¿½s why we have the immediate consequence. I just decide
how long Iï¿½m going to put them in jail. Thereï¿½s always a consequence,
and itï¿½s always immediate. Otherwise, it just doesnï¿½t have any
impact.ï¿½ Numerous law enforcement sources around the state say that
dilute urine samples mayï¿½emphasis on mayï¿½indicate drug use or
suspicious activity. Toxicologists say it is possible for addicts to
mask drug use by diluting their urine, either by drinking a lot of
water or taking pills that purportedly dilute urine enough to pass
Other judges find Mayesï¿½ methods overly harsh. All the other drug
court judges interviewed for this story said they never jail an
offender for dilute urine alone, simply because dilute urine has many
causes, including overhydration. A dilute sample will lead to tighter
scrutinyï¿½more random drug screening, careful attention to the
personï¿½s performanceï¿½to watch for signs they may be relapsing. In
most drug courts, an offender must fail at least two drug tests to
spend even a weekend in jail.
For Mayes, a dilute sample is a violation, period. His drug court
program forbids dilute urine for any reason. He said he would jail
offenders in his program for dilute urine even if they actually were
ï¿½Some people, letï¿½s say, drink a lot of waterï¿½itï¿½s a legitimate
dilute. [I] still donï¿½t care,ï¿½ Mayes says. ï¿½A lot of guys say, well,
I work out in the sun, I drink a lot of water. I say too bad. ... But
hereï¿½s what Auggie [program counselor Agustin Gutierrez] tells them:
You can avoid thatï¿½vitamins, multivitamins. Pregnant women, thereï¿½s
some kind of vitamin he gives them. In other words, if youï¿½re clean,
you can keep yourself healthy enough so you wonï¿½t have a dilute
Judge Creuzot in Dallas finds Mayesï¿½ approach exceedingly harsh. ï¿½We
just donï¿½t throw people in jail,ï¿½ he says. In fact, long jail stints
can be self-defeatingï¿½Creuzot says most research shows that jail
terms longer than about five days for drug court offenders can be
harmfulï¿½isolating someone who needs support.
Judge Watts pointed out that defense attorneys are present at all her
drug court hearings to guard offendersï¿½ rights to due process. In
fact, drug court guidelines issued by the Department of Justice
stipulate that defense attorneys be present at all hearings. No
defense counsel was present when the Observer witnessed a session in
Mayesï¿½ court on November 6.
Still, the judges interviewed for this story said lawmakers shouldnï¿½t
place any restrictions on drug courts. ï¿½Judges and the community
should decide what works best for that community,ï¿½ Bennett says.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who helps refer cases
to Bennettï¿½s court, put it this way: ï¿½You canï¿½t make the list [of
restrictions] long enough for a half-wit judge. A wise judge doesnï¿½t
need a list.ï¿½
Printed from The Power of Drug Courts
Column: Charlene Cheek:
Imprisoned drug offenders need rehab, education
Publication Date: 11/06/06
Never before in U.S. history have so many individuals been released
Approximately 600,000 adults leave state and federal prisons each
year. Many are in a maximum-security facility one day and released
onto the streets of our cities and towns the next. They are released
back into society with the same problems that got them incarcerated
in the first place.
Most prisoners return home with most of their treatment needs unmet,
despite a lengthy history of alcohol and drug abuse. Research
clearly demonstrates that rehabilitation programs reduce recidivism,
but just when evidence of that fact is mounting, many states are
dismantling projects due to budget cuts.
I received a letter recently from state Sen. Kel Seliger regarding
"As Vice Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee I am in a unique
position to examine and improve rehabilitation efforts for the
state," he wrote. The senator admitted that "(I)n 2003, the State of
Texas experienced a $10 billion shortfall in funding for state
programs, and as a result, many of the rehabilitation efforts in
prisons were drastically cut back or eliminated."
Seliger believes, however, that "it is essential that we study those
programs that reduce recidivism and reinstate those that are most
effective." He assures us that "Senator John Whitmire recently
authorized a staff workgroup to consider current methods of
rehabilitation for drug and alcohol offenders in prison."
In spite of our many protests regarding the lack of rehabilitation
offered to correctional clients, all Seliger has to offer is yet
another study group. But he does say, "I am hopeful that the work
group can identify the best use of state funds," and he "looks
forward to working with Senator Whitmire on this issue."
Warren Burger, the late chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court,
stated: "We must accept the reality that to confine offenders behind
walls without trying to change them is an expensive folly with short-
term benefits - winning battles while losing the war. It is wrong.
It is expensive. It is stupid."
Many state legislatures also question the necessity of imprisoning
non-violent drug offenders. To that end, Arizona voters approved
Proposition 200, the drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control
A central purpose of the act is to expand drug treatment and
educational services for drug offenders, thereby potentially
diverting many arrested drug abusers from prison. To fund the
program, the Arizona Legislature established the state's Drug
Treatment and Education Fund, administered by Arizona's Office of
the Courts. The fund draws revenue from the state's luxury tax on
A recent study by Arizona's Administrative Office of the Courts
concluded that the new law is "resulting in safer communities and
more substance abusing probationers in recovery."
The report goes on to say that the law has saved the state millions
of dollars and has helped more than 75 percent of program
participants remain drug-free.
Americans are frustrated with a prison system that releases inmates
with few of the skills they need to survive. We will continue to
experience shortfalls in our budget because prisons place a
tremendous strain on taxpayers. Our prison population has doubled
during the past 10 years, and there seems to be no end in sight.
The state of Texas plans on adding 11,000 beds in the near future.
The cost to build just one prison cell is $80,000, and that's only
Prisoners are the only citizens with a constitutional right to
health care. Consider the cost of that.
The waste of human life and the collateral damage from our "just
lock 'em up" mentality is untold. When we think about our current
situation, the words of former Chief Justice Burger should continue
to ring in our ears.
It's wrong. It's expensive. It's stupid.
Charlene Cheek of Canyon is founder of the Panhandle Plains Chapter
of Mothers Against Methamphetamines.
Click here to return to story:
Â© The Amarillo Globe-News Online
It was reported from the Huckberry Unit,
that a young woman committed suicide due
to the punishment and mistreatment from
the staff of The Gateway Program.
She only had a few months to go to
complete the program but was not able
to endure the pain and suffering that
continues to go on in this facility.
The counselor took away her medications
that was prescribed from her doctor which
may had caused her death if it was for
mental-illness. They are not doctors and
have no legal/medical right to do so!
Gateway should be held accountable for
the caused of this young woman's death!
She lefted her husband and children behind
due to Gateway's neglect and error.
This Message was E-Mailed to; Gateway-To-Hell:
This is the only positive report on Gateway
that we have received so far...
MY NAME IS MONICA AND I AM ONE OF
THE SUCCESS STORIES OF SAFP-F.
I WAS AT HACKBERRY UNIT IN GATESVILLE,
AND WAS RELEASED ON OCT 12, 2004.
I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED
THE SAFP-F PROGRAM EVEN THOUGH
I THOUGHT IT WOULD NEVER END.
I CAN HONESTLY SAY THAT IF
I WOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN
SENT TO SAFP-F, I WOULD NOT
BE RIGHT WHERE I AM TODAY.
I HAVE A JOB MAKING $2300.00 PER MONTH
DOING COLLECTIONS FOR A
MAJOR CELLULAR PROVIDER IN DALLAS.
I HAVE A GORGEOUS TOWNHOME
IN NORTH DALLAS AND A CAT
NAMED PLATINUM THAT IS ROTTEN.
ANYWAY, I GUESS I JUST WANTED
TO SAY THANK YOU
TO THE POWERS THAT BE,
AS I AM SURE YOU
NEVER HEAR THAT EVER.
I HOPE, LATER THIS YEAR,
TO GO BACK TO HACKBERRY TO
SPEAK TO THE GIRLS.
TO LET THEM KNOW THAT
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
THANK YOU, AND PLEASE KNOW
THAT THE PROGRAM DOES WORK
FOR PEOPLE IF THEY
WILL LET IT WORK.
We have won our first battle
with Gateway from the Attorney General.
Gateway refused to send out any
information about their program with TDCJ
to taxpayor-citizens when requested.
The AG requested Gateway to send their
information concerning their programs but...
no response from them yet.
file criminal charges against Gateway.
We are also requesting the same
information from Salvation Army
but, like Gateway, they too are
refusing to send any
information about their program.
What do these Vendors of TDCJ have
to hide from taxpayor-citizens???
Something is very wrong with this
since We, the People of Texas
pay these Vendors with TDCJ
with our tax dollars for
their programs that a lot of
have to participate in.