As legislators wrestle with strategies to solve Florida's budget crisis, it is prudent that the state's limited resources be spent wisely. One of the smart investments the state has supported is community-based drug treatment for offenders on the verge of a prison admission and drug treatment in prison for inmates on their way back into the community.
According to the Department of Corrections, 65 percent of the 100,000 inmates in prison and 59.7 percent of the 153,000 offenders on probation have a substance-abuse problem and need treatment. The state has contracted with community substance-abuse providers for 14 years with positive results, the data clearly showing that prisoners who received institutional treatment returned to prison at a lower rate than those who didn't receive treatment. The success rate is even greater for probationers who received community-based treatment outside of prison.
Drug treatment is not a soft-on-crime approach, but rather a smart-on-crime approach. There is significant research showing that offender drug treatment works and is one of a variety of strategies that have been used across the nation to flatten the intake of new inmates. Data from the Florida Department of Corrections validate that drug treatment is a cost effective intervention for offenders as it reduces prison admissions and recidivism.
Another smart approach is the cost-saving benefit of substance-abuse treatment. Already, this potential savings was compromised when in November, 309 community substance-abuse offender beds and 525 institutional drug treatment slots were eliminated. For $9,400 a probationer with a substance-abuse problem was provided drug treatment, random urinalysis, job placement and supervision. By cutting the beds, the same offender who now goes to prison will cost taxpayers $45,000. These numbers demonstrate that substance-abuse treatment, either community-based or within an institution, is a smart, long-term investment for the state of Florida.
Next year alone, the state of Florida has committed $715 million dollars for the construction of new prisons and to open beds that are already constructed.
Legislators will decide whether to eliminate or continue these treatment programs, which amounts to only 1.4 percent of the total Department of Corrections budget. Lawmakers have the duty to spend state resources wisely. As funds diminish, strategic business thinking demands new and innovative approaches to investing.
Drug treatment for offenders is one approach to long-term savings in the midst of a year in budget crisis. Not only will it save money, it also has the additional benefit of saving lives.
[ Mark P. Fontaine is executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association. ]
Rate this article Votes: 0
Pubdate: Wed, 23 Apr 2008
Source: Ledger, The (Lakeland, FL)
Copyright: 2008 The Ledger
Author: Mark Fontaine
Mark P. Fontaine is executive director of the Florida Alcohol and
Drug Abuse Associat.