Does It Save Addicts Lives to Force Them into Prison Treatment Programs?


Part of the issue I think, Doctor Drew, is that there’s an inherent moralistic element, of course, to addiction, so. What? Moralism, moral problem addiction? Is there a moral problem in dementia? Is there a moral problem in schizophrenia? Well, no, moralistic, meaning that… People moralize about it. Well, there’s a moral element to it, meaning like when you made that comparison to if we don’t get somebody treatment for cancer, or diabetes, it’s a huge problem. Well, people sometimes look at people who are addicted already with this sort of eye as, you know what, they’re doing it to themselves, they’re bad people, I mean there’s this judgment of them already. Right, that’s exactly why we can’t let that prevail anymore than we used to think cancer, people with cancer were possessed and we shunned them, too. But here’s part of the problem with putting them in prison, because there’s already a corrosive element, and we don’t know if everybody in that type of treatment inside a prison system actually really has the proper education about this is a disease. So nobody on this panel is going to disagree that treatment for drug or alcohol addiction is a good thing. I think I wanna delve a little bit more into where that can and should take place because there are people out there who have a lot of problems with this concept of putting addicts in jail for treatment. Joining us via Skype now is attorney with Prisoner’s Legal Services, Bonnie Tenneriello, and Hampton County Sheriff, Nicholas Cocchi, who has an involuntary addiction treatment program at the Hampton County Correctional Center. So I wanna start with you, Bonnie, why do you believe it should be illegal to force people into prison-based addiction treatment program? We are not taking a position on whether people should be forced into treatment, but when you send someone to prison, you’re not helping their treatment. You know, we’ve talked to dozens of people who’ve found themselves in prison at the lowest point in their lives, very often. Couple of reactions. They’re angry, they’re pissed off, I didn’t commit any kind of crime, I’m not charged with anything, why am I in prison? They’re ashamed, and as I think any addiction specialist will tell you, shame is a driver of addiction. Massachusetts is the only place that’s made a choice to increase reliance on prison for civil commitment, while other states don’t use prison at all. We need to put those resources in a health care setting where it belongs. And I wanna continue this discussion, and we’ll come back to you in a minute, Bonnie. To play devil’s advocate, we’ve actually had a few people on this show who said that going to prison, in this case it wasn’t an involuntary commitment, they were sent to prison because they were found to be using drugs. People have a moment of clarity around loss, loss of life, near, loss of freedom, loss of child, that’s when addicts wake up and start to make change. So I wanna dig a little bit deeper into what a program might look like, and we all know treatment facilities can differ greatly in terms of how well they treat people in the program, how effective they are, but I wanna ask you, Sheriff, just give us a little background on your program and how it looks in a prison. When you say the word prison, I operate a county jail, and a prison and a jail are much different from each other. We’ve been in this business of rehabilitation for over 30 years, and if you really wanna classify the institutions in the commonwealth of Massachusetts being run by your county sheriffs, they’re rehabilitation facilities. We have 129 bed facility and it is full today, and we just brought in, on Monday, a father and two kids, a family. We’re treating a family that is dealing with a severe level of addiction. Sheriff, can I ask you something, sir? Can I ask you something so you can clarify? You separate these individuals from those individuals who are deemed to be criminals, am I correct? Your honor, that is correct. There is no intermingling whatsoever between somebody doing time that is incarcerated and what we call our clients on a civil commitment. What is the other option? The other option is death. We’re putting people in the ground. That’s it. When you talk about a section 35 civil commitment, the family has their hands in the air. Their hands are up, they don’t know what else to do, and we are an environment, and we are an institution, and we are a rehabilitation center that people can’t walk out the back door and reengage in the addiction behavior. And, your honor, I’ve begun to say that people that interfere are committing homicide because there is a material and direct relationship between preventing care and demise, and that’s what we got in California. Of course, in here, California, we were welcoming that, and then we’re letting them die in the streets. It’s insane, and we have to do stuff like this. It’s an emergency, it’s a national crisis.

3 thoughts on “Does It Save Addicts Lives to Force Them into Prison Treatment Programs?

  1. If they think forcing somebody into drug rehab who is not consciously ready for it. Then they really don't understand drug addiction. If the person hasn't made the decision themselves that they want to quit. Then they're just going to start using again as soon as they're released.

  2. My exs parents did this to him for a year. When he came back he would victimize himself while secretly sneaking drugs and his parents still enabled him and allowed him to live there. He started buying alot of xanax (even on family vacation with them and got caught) and they tried kicking him out but everytime he came back crying that hes trying to get better and that hes struggling they will take him back because the mom cannot accept the fact that he does drugs heavily. They will literally look the other way and when someone says something they act like they never knew it was going on and take "action". Within 6 months he eventually found his way back to heroin and declines being on it when you can tell the signs.

  3. It mostly does not work, it's mostly a way for prisons to get money since the federal government will grant them funds. The programs are harder when guards are smuggling drugs for the inmates or inmates theirselves smuggle them. The drugs won't come up in a drug test because they are synthetic. So inmates will do the program like nothing is going on, complete it, go out on the street, get caught and return to prison. It does help a few people, but very few. I have studied very well, interviewed many inmates, and I've had friends who have gone to prison. I also volunteered and the inmates I spoke to would say the same thing.

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