Federal Prison And Addiction: What Are The Treatment Options?

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The need for prison-based addiction treatment is intense. In the most recent data from the Department of Justice in 2002, it was found that 68 percent of offenders reported symptoms of addiction in the year before their admission to jail that met addiction criteria. 16 percent of convicted offenders report they have committed their offense in order to get money for drugs. 63 percent of offenders who met addiction criteria had participated in some form of treatment in the past (James & Karberg, 2005).

Because convicted offenders tend to be locked up for longer periods than jail offenders, treatment possibilities in a prison setting are more far-reaching. The prison and treatment staff are in the best position to establish programs that fit the needs within their facility. In the best circumstances, offenders have the opportunity to abstain from substance use and learn new positive behaviors before release into the community (9 Treatment Issues, 2005).

Issues Affecting Treatment in Prison Settings

To determine the characteristics of one type of “criminal” personality that is shared by all offenders is nearly impossible. The hardened character traits and “manly” attitude adopted as part of the prison culture can discourage offenders from participating in treatment. The stigma associated with incarceration, combined with the effects of being imprisoned, often results in a bleak outlook on life. Some feel they are the victims of the legal system, and still others take pride in belonging to a sub-culture, and being outside of the majority culture. Prisoners often learn to create this type of identity as offenders in order to survive within the system (9 Treatment Issues, 2005).

Disincentives for Participation


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...treatment while in incarceration. Addiction treatment is available to inmates that choose to participate in a program while they are incarcerated. While the reason to enter into treatment will vary, some will be mandated and some will volunteer. The major problem with offenders staying with the program has to do with the culture within the prison system. Those that overcome the difficulties and stay with the program from beginning until they are released from aftercare which would occur after release from prison, have a better chance at not reoffending and not relapsing. The Federal program appears to be well established and functioning.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is working with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) to ensure evidence-based treatment services are provided to federal prisoners.
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