Good. This is another wildly dysfunctional part of the system. I know from my many contacts, my readings, and my own experience, that virtually NONE of the prison run programs are effective! The private companies submit a bid of 13 million $$$, or 40 million$$$, … to provide a treatment program. The program looks good on paper, the contractor gets the big bucks, …. and the difference between what is on the proposal and what goes on in the prisons makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in the sidewalk! The “classes” are just bullshit sessions. They should have some empirical way to know which ones WORK!
Excerpts from the Article:
Lawmakers’ ongoing discussions about sentencing reform have turned a spotlight on substance abuse treatment in Arizona prisons, and the stark lack of options for the more than three quarters of inmates who have addiction issues.
The Arizona Department of Corrections says 78 percent of the inmates in its custody have a history of substance abuse at the time they’re admitted into prison. But less than 4 percent of all inmates who spent time in Arizona prisons in fiscal year 2019 received treatment while behind bars.
At the end of November, 933 inmates were enrolled in substance abuse programming. That accounted for about 2.2 percent of the total inmate population of 42,562. Department spokesman Bill Lamoreaux emphasized that that figure is just a snapshot of enrollment, and doesn’t account for people who have completed treatment but are still incarcerated.
Of the 60,272 inmates who saw the inside of a state correctional facility during the last fiscal year, only 2,299, or about 3.8 percent of the year’s total prison population, graduated from substance abuse programs.
The need for treatment exceeds the availability of programming, Lamoreaux said.
Mireles had already done several stints in prison when she was sentenced to five years for property crimes she committed to feed her heroin addiction in 2013. This time, she was committed to getting sober and kicking her 28-year heroin addiction.“Any crime I’ve ever committed has been in regard to getting my fix,” said Mireles, who has now been sober for nearly seven years.
In her five years in Perryville, Mireles sent five letters to prison officials asking to be enrolled in substance abuse treatment. The first four went ignored, she said. Officials finally responded on the fifth try and said she would be placed on a waiting list for a program. But by then, Mireles had less than a year left on her sentence and therefore was ineligible to participate. Mireles’s predicament isn’t uncommon. The Department of Corrections uses a ranking system based on need, risk to recidivate and time remaining on a prison sentence to determine which inmates get enrolled in programming. Inmates who can qualify for an early release by completing substance abuse counseling go to the front of the line. Treatment ranges from 36 hours for people convicted of drunk driving to 12-month “intensive treatment,” according to Lamoreaux.
In August, Karen Hellman, who runs the Department of Corrections’ division for inmate programs, told a legislative committee studying sentencing reform that 13 of her division’s 26 positions for substance abuse treatment counselors were vacant. Lamoreaux told the Arizona Mirror that a recent salary increase has helped fill six vacant positions.
Under Arizona’s “truth in sentencing” law, inmates must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, but can earn the option to serve the remaining 15 percent on community supervision. A 2019 law lowered the requirement to 70 percent for people who were only convicted of drug offenses, if they complete addiction counseling or other programming. As of late June, 101 inmates were already eligible for early release and nearly 7,400 others could become eligible in the future.
While inmates who are in line for an early release have an obvious need for priority, that may leave other inmates without access to the treatment they need. Inmates with substance abuse problems and long prison sentences often go many years before receiving treatment. Mireles was granted an early release after serving 85 percent of her sentence in exchange for attending 90 days of substance abuse treatment after her release.
Even when treatment is available, it’s not always of the highest caliber. Rebecca Fealk, program coordinator for the Arizona chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that promotes criminal justice reform, has heard many stories from former inmates about treatment that basically consists of, “do this packet and I’ll watch you in the classroom while you complete this packet, which talks about making the right choices or what kind of coping mechanisms would you have so you don’t do drugs again.”
“That’s not actual treatment and counseling. Those are worksheets,” Fealk said.
Donna Hamm, director of the prison reform organization Middle Ground, said treatment sometimes consists of little more than filling out a workbook, and those in need sometimes don’t even get counselor. When they do, she said, “counselor” is often a misnomer. Joe Watson, a former inmate who now works for the American Friends Service Committee, said treatment is often provided not by counselors but by correctional officers who lack training in treating substance abuse issues.
“Our law enforcement agencies are very good at finding out who does what and arresting them for it. But we keep hearing that they end up arresting the same people over and over again because we’re not doing anything to address the underlying issue,” Roberts said.
Gov. Doug Ducey said the state needs money for substance abuse treatment in its prisons. It’s unclear whether he’ll push for more funding in the fiscal year 2021 budget, but said he plans to focus on reducing recidivism.
“Prison … is not the best place for people with mental health issues, often substance abuse issues. Sometimes people are in prison because they’re feeding that addiction. So we are looking at different alternatives in terms of reforms that we can have so that we can give people a second chance and allow them to make a better choice. And substance abuse programs are part of that,” the governor told reporters in December.
Fealk, on the other hand, doesn’t believe the department needs for funding at all. The Department of Corrections has a budget of about $1.1 billion. Rather than give it more, Fealk said the department needs to change the way it spends its money to prioritize things like treatment.
The Whole Story: