Letter to The Courier-Journal
November 13, 2012
Your November 12 story ‘Kentucky works to give addicted inmates treatment while still behind bars’ spotlights an important change in addressing the health needs of inmates not only in Kentucky but the nation.
Two-thirds of all inmates in the U.S.--more than one and a half million--meet the medical criteria for addiction. Almost half a million more had histories of substance use; were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of their crime; committed their offense to get money to buy drugs or were incarcerated for an alcohol or drug law violation. Only 11 percent of all inmates with addiction receive any treatment during their incarceration. Substance involved offenders have higher rates of repeat offending and incarceration.
The cost of our failure to prevent and treat this health problem is staggering. In Kentucky alone, risky substance use and addiction account for nearly 11 percent of the state budget with the largest costs falling to the justice system. Continued failure to treat this disease, particularly among offenders, is profligate waste of taxpayer dollars and one we can no longer afford. Kentucky State government is on the right track and is to be commended for it.
Susan E. Foster
Vice President and Director
Division of Policy Research and Analysis
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia)