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Most inmates are in prison either directly or indirectly because of an addition to drugs/alcohol. When they are released without a job and without a safe house in which to live, they will usually return to their drug/alcohol usage pattern. Spending the last year or more of their sentence in a low cost addiction program where they gradually earn independence is a far better solution. They would earn the right to a job with much of their income going to the cost of their program. Food stamps would pay for much of their food. Most "staff" work like cooking, cleaning, and routine maintenance would be done by the inmates. They would gradually earn more and more opportunities to lead a normal life (go to the store, go for a walk, visit a person). They would have the certainty of returning to prison if they failed to stay sober.
Most addition programs are designed for intensive 3-4 week interventions. This is sufficient for detoxification, but has little permanent effect given the person has a long term addiction and irregular employment history. Low cost treatment is a large place, perhaps 30 beds, where there our AA type daily meetings and low cost group counseling along with help finding a job. Once the person shows he or she can hold a job and has at least 6 months in the program, they could go to a safe house for the rest of the time. They would be subject to random drug tests (scheduled so as not to prevent them from keeping their job). They would go back to prison for failure and there could be an extension on their original sentence.
The recidivism is because their is no meaningful transition from a total institution to total freedom. This lack of a meaningful transition coupled with a history of addiction leads to an enormous failure rate. I've talked to a PO in Canada who said that most inmates had a job placement and a place to live when released and the PO would help them keep their job, find a new job, and find alternative housing. This makes more sense than a bus ticket to downtown Portland. I believe that Canada has a much lower recidivism rate and actually has fewer people in prison in all of Canada than we have in Oregon.
The idea of spending $30,000 to $50,000 per year to keep people incarcerated and almost nothing to help them transition to a normal life after release is neither cost effective nor likely to reduce recidivism.
posted 3 years, 8 months ago
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