At the Morris County Correctional Facility, a new unit called the Hope Wing recently opened, providing inmates who qualify with drug and alcohol addiction treatment during their incarceration. Inmates who agree to take part in the program will receive treatment and support that includes:
- Anger management
- Communication and relationship development assistance
- Peer counseling
- Addiction education
- Relapse prevention assistance
Additionally, the program will focus on helping inmates to manage issues related to getting education, housing, employment, and ongoing support to stay sober when they are released.
Sheriff Gannon is with the local sheriff’s office. He said: “With opioid abuse reaching an alarming level in Morris County, I am proud to announce the opening of the Hope Wing within the Morris County Correctional Facility. The new unit will serve as one of the many components in place designed to reduce the rate of recidivism in Morris County. The old idiom of ‘Lock Them Up and Throw Away the Key’ has not worked in the past and will certainly not work in our future.”
A Huge Leap in the Right Direction
For decades, the approach to managing someone who is living with an addiction and breaking laws as a result has been to simply throw them in jail, and for decades, we have seen that this approach does little to solve the problem. Instead, those who started out with a primary problem of addiction end up in a loop of imprisonment, release, continued drug use, more criminal behaviors, and a return to jail. Over time, it became clear that treatment was far more effective in helping people whose behaviors were motivated by addiction than simply throwing them in with a group of people who may be committing far more dangerous and organized crimes.
As an alternative, drug courts became an option in many states. This provided many who were arrested for possession of the substance or fraud/theft crimes associated with drug use to connect with treatment through the court system rather than jail. In this way, many “offenders” were able to fulfill all the drug court requirements and at the same time get the treatment they needed to stop the cycle of addiction behaviors and incarceration. The program has been exceptionally successful, far more financially efficient than incarceration, and replicated in counties all over the country.
But a number of “offenders” fell through the cracks. A violent charge or a sales offense means exclusion from the drug court program in most states. This means that people who may be struggling with such an intense addiction that they are committing serious crimes are not getting the treatment they need to make positive changes in their lives.
For a long time, it has been suggested that providing drug treatment within the context of the prison system was the only way to address this problem proactively. However, money and staffing issues always put a stop to that discussion before it got started. Prisons are notoriously understaffed, facilities are run down, resources are slim, and there is no wiggle room in the budget to make changes. Even if it would save money in the long run as it would significantly decrease the prison population by providing inmates with skills they need to stay sober and functional on the outside, the funds have never been available. Now, New Jersey is taking a stand and making sure it happens.
With this pioneer program in place, prisons, state governments, courts, and organizations across the country are standing by to see what happens. The treatments and therapies that are implemented as well as how people progress through the program and how they fare upon release will all be tracked to determine what is most effective and what “tune-ups” are needed. The hope is that in the coming years, there will be data to point to the efficacy of addiction treatment provided in the prison system as well as increased support for inmates as they transition out into the community and continue their sober lives on the outside.
With the evidence in hand, the process of installing similar programs across the country can begin, with the hope that individuals and their families across the country will not only be able to live drug-free but also enjoy the improved health benefits and quality of life that come with sobriety.