Ease Suffering Reduce Harm

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Our jail is full of people who have been in prison and have completed mandated addictions treatment. Why did prison and treatment fail to rehabilitate them?
The addictions treatment programs that are mandated by our courts are based on the belief that drug-related offenders have a chronic disease called addiction, and that abstinence is necessary to avoid ongoing criminal conduct. But can any single point of view adequately address the reality of the lives of people who are stuck in the painful, costly cycle of drug use and incarceration?
I have met about 100 “recidivists” in our jail. All of them started using by age 16. Most of them grew up in drug-dominated homes. They learned how to make friends and find lovers in drug-dominated social groups. Incarceration is a fact of life, not a life-changing crisis. Drugs dominate their world, both in and out of prison. We cannot change the reality of their lives by treating them for a disease.
Our recidivists are far more than our beliefs about them. The more we are able to understand and respect the reality of their lives, the more we will be able to reduce the harm caused by their drug use.

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