A significant proportion of Americans have substance use disorder but for some, dependence and addiction leads to them engaging in criminal activity. The need to use becomes a compulsion that cannot be controlled by the addict and they risk falling into petty thieving to finance the habit. Small misdemeanors can quickly escalate to become violent crimes as people fall further into addictive behaviors beyond their control. But how does incarceration affect someone needing treatment for substance use disorder?
How Addicts Cope in Jail
Around 80% of all the crimes committed in the US that lead to imprisonment involve alcohol or drugs. When arrested for crimes, 60% of people test positive for at least one illegal substance. In general these crimes are committed when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and offenders are often not aware of their criminal activity. In other cases, crimes are motivated by the need to get more money to finance a drink or drug habit.
However, there is strong evidence to suggest that incarcerating someone when they have addiction issues is not the best course of action. Not dealing with their issues with treatment and therapy serves to allow symptoms to intensify, making rehab and recovery extremely difficult in jail. Although jail rehabilitates criminals so that they can return to society, the system fails to address the very specific needs of addicted prisoners.
Furthermore, research shows that those who are incarcerated for crimes committed while addicted generally fail to achieve recovery. In fact, the statistics reveal that around 95% of addicts revert back to using when they are released from jail and from 60 to 80% of them will reoffend. There is little, if any, evidence to support any benefits to incarcerating an individual with addiction issues without some form of treatment program in place.