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Prison Treatment Cuts Could Feed Recidivism in Calif.

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An 80-percent reduction in prison addiction-treatment capacity could lead to a proportional increase in recidivism in California, some experts say.

The Contra Costa Times reported Nov. 12 that $1.2 billion in budget cuts for state prisons will mean that just 2,350 inmates will receive addiction treatment next year, down from 12,164. Nine-month programs will be cut to three months, which critics say could limit their effectiveness.

“Those inmates will have very little treatment service to deal with behavioral issues that they've spent years to develop, most of which was put on them from an early age,” said Darrol Monfils, a counselor at the California Institution for Women. “Their chances of succeeding are slim.”

“California prisoners will be paroling inmates with little or no rehabilitation,” Monfils said. “They will be paroling with the same behaviors as they did when they arrived. Now, having said that, there will be a few exceptions to the rule, but they will be the larger minority.”

A state corrections department spokesperson said the agency is “scientifically evaluating and assessing inmates, those at the highest risk of recidivism and so we are targeting our resources to that population group and identifying what their needs are.”

David Conn, senior vice president for treatment provider Mental Health Systems, Inc., said the state made the cuts only reluctantly. “These were sort of last-minute budget cuts to balance the budget, and everyone agrees it's probably a foolish decision,” he said. “Individuals who are incarcerated to support drug habits will not receive substance abuse treatment. The likelihood of them reoffending increases significantly.”

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