Statistics of Incarcerated Individuals with Substance Use Problems Show Only 10% Received Clinical Help

A police officer finds drugs during the search of drug dealers. File Photo. Credit: Getty Images

By Emily Saroyan

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. “War on Drugs” has left a massive gap in mental health support for recovering incarcerated individuals, tweeted Amy Fettig, executive director of the Sentencing Project, noting half the people in prison had a substance use problem within a year of being imprisoned.

Fettig, a human rights lawyer and criminal justice reform advocate, cited statistics showing only one in 10 incarcerated gets help, adding, “Our Mass Incarceration system fails on every single measure. Who is benefitting from this disaster?”

The Prison Policy Initiative released a data table based on the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates for “Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners” that demonstrated the lack of support incarcerated individuals received, such as clinical or group programs, Fettig said.

The Prison Policy Initiative calculated, “Over 49 percent had a substance abuse disorder in the year before admission.” In addition, the Prison Policy Initiative discussed how only “10 percent received clinical treatment” and “16 percent participated in other programs.”

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, clinical treatment included “residential treatment programs…professional counseling…detox… and received maintenance drugs.”

The statistics show another 16 percent of incarcerated individuals recovering from substance abuse participated in other programs, which the Prison Policy Initiative discusses as “self-help groups/peer counseling… substance use education program.”

The Prison Policy Initiative emphasized, “The result of this country’s war on drugs and its war on the poor is that hundreds of thousands of people in prison today are suffering from a substance use disorder without treatment.”

About The Author

Emily is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently majoring in Anthropology with an emphasis in legal studies. Her major aspirations after graduation is pursuing law school to advocate for change in the unjust judicial system.

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