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Prison Drug Treatment Programs Falling to Budget Axe

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Budget crises are leading prisons nationwide to eliminate addiction treatment programs, according to the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) and other experts.

The Associated Press reported April 15 that Texas, Kansas, Iowa and Pennsylvania are among the states where prison treatment programs have been gutted or lawmakers are proposing to do so. A major budget crisis in California also has resulted in big cutbacks in prison treatment there.

Prison experts called the cuts shortsighted and likely to lead to increases in crime and recidivism. “When inmates are busy, they’re not getting into bad things,” said Bob May, associated director of ASCA. “Programming is good and helps build responsibility and accountability.”

In Texas, treatment supporters are using the case of a repeat drunk driver — who killed a woman in a car crash after being released from prison without getting addiction counseling — to argue against a plan to cut $23 million from the prison treatment budget. “People say, ’How can you afford to (fund) this?’” said Texas Sen. John Whitmire, chair of the state Senate’s criminal justice committee. “My comeback is, ’How can you afford not to?’”

Even before the latest cuts, only about 11 percent of inmates who needed addiction treatment received services, studies have shown.

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