In Maryland, drug offenders make up a total of 19 percent of the prison community according to an article published in the Washington Post. It is no surprise to anyone that many of those filtering in and out of the prison system are doing so because of drug-related charges. More than that, many of these are non-violent offenders. In the past, the justice system has tried to solve these problems with “Get Tough” policies, which imposed extreme and lengthy sentences for drug offenders. However, those policies were never proven to be effective deterrents. The demand for alternatives has been steadily increasing year after year in an attempt to find the best solution to the illegal drug trade.
A number of jails already offer counseling and support groups; however, recently the treatment and support offered in the justice system has begun to expand even further. The realization that rehabilitation works has begun to really sink into the criminal justice system. Aside from specialized drug courts, programs in relation to rehabilitation have been scarce in the justice system until recently. Newer rehabilitative policies carry an idea that, if followed through correctly, will not only improve life after incarceration but will reduce recidivism, proving to be more cost effective.
Montgomery County offers their own services offered through the local jail known as “Jail Addiction Services.” The program is a collaboration between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Correction. The overall goal of the program is to encourage addicts to participate in the program, gain an assessment of substance use and criminal planning, increase services offered throughout the community, and most importantly, reduce recidivism by promoting the abstinence of drugs and alcohol. To achieve this, the program consists of the following services:
- 8 week education class
- Community meetings
- Therapy groups
- Peer counseling
- Self-help meetings
- Cognitive behavioral skill building
- Discharge planning
As of June of this year Governor Larry Hogan announced his plan to fight the heroin epidemic in Maryland by beginning treatment programs in 8 county jails and detention centers. If effective, this new tactic could not only act as a deterrent for re-offending but also prove to be more cost effective in the long run. The program involves the use of Naltrexone to block the stimulating and euphoric effects of any opiate based substance such as heroin or painkillers. The Naltrexone injections are distributed once a month for three months prior to the offender’s release. Upon release the offender will be given the option to continue receiving the injections from their county health department, along with other benefits such as:
- Insurance enrollment to help pay for the injections
- Aftercare planning such as housing upon release
- Mental health counseling
- And employment post release
Hogan provides these services, stating that we must provide previous offenders with the resources necessary to continue living a sober lifestyle after receiving rehabilitation in jail. The idea of providing recovering addicts with the resources to successfully get back on their feet is becoming more and more accepted.