A major issue for those of us who work in the American corrections industry is substance dependency. From over 40 percent to nearly 90 percent of individuals arrested test positive for drug or alcohol use at the time of their arrest. Early identification of an addict has to be a priority in our juvenile detention facilities and county jails. Substance dependency is more of a medical issue than a criminal problem. Below is a case study that illustrates this point.
“Jeremy is thirteen years old. He is friendly and has a kind smile; he is easy to talk with. He comes from a ‘good family’ and used to be liked by his friends at school and in his neighborhood. Could this young man really be a ‘coke head’? Sadly, the answer is yes. Jeremy was sent to se me by a juvenile court judge. He was arrested for breaking into the home of one of his friends to get money for his $200 a day cocaine habit. But this was not all – he had not only been caught breaking into homes, but he had already been stealing from lockers at school, shoplifting at local stores and worst of all, he had been getting cocaine from his supplier by introducing other kids to drugs. These kids were elementary, middle school and high school kids that Jeremy knew before he got involved in the crazy world of cocaine. Many of them probably trusted him and thought of him as their friend, but by involving them with drugs he was betraying them in the worst possible way. Even though Jeremy didn’t mean any harm to them, this is just one of the ways in which cocaine and other drugs can take control of a young person’s life – even without him realizing it. After he was addicted, he simply could not resist any opportunities to get the cocaine he needed every day.
Actually, Jeremy was lucky he got caught stealing, because it may have saved him from destroying his life, and that of his family and friends. He could just as likely been arrested for selling drugs. The judge suggested that I meet with him to decide if he should go to boys’ school. My recommendation was that a treatment program might work for Jeremy. He did go into the hospital for 28 days; he needed to be in the hospital so that his body could withdraw from the drugs as safely as possible. Jeremy’s hospital stay also helped him psychologically. He needed intensive counseling to help him to learn how to face his problems and find an acceptable role (without using drugs) in his school and community.
After his 28-day hospital stay, Jeremy will attend meetings daily for the next 90 days and then weekly counseling sessions for about three years. As a psychologist, I am optimistic that the treatment program will work for Jeremy, and that he can remain drug-free for the rest of his life.”
My appeal to those of us who work in corrections is to be cognizant of what it means for one to be an addict. For us to work to find viable options for the assessment and care of addicts while they are incarcerated and help them identify ways to continue their recovery upon their release.