There have been some interesting happenings within the California Penal System over the past couple of weeks. In news that was recently broken by the Sacramento-based outlet Mercury News, it was revealed that 138 prominent doctors throughout the state signed a petition to improve treatment programs within the CA prison system.
The Mercury article went on to describe the addiction issues plaguing prisoners throughout the state. Overdoses are running rampant among inmates and even treatment medications, like the opioid recovery prescription Suboxone, are getting regularly abused.
It is believed that the management of treatment is what’s at the root of the prison system’s problems. In their report, the doctors called out correction officials and believed that a lack of oversight for proper substance abuse programs are furthering these prisoners’ habits.
The report shared by Mercury News highlighted some truly alarming stats. According to their data, prisoners who properly receive addiction medication treatment are 94 percent less likely to die of an unnatural cause (such as an overdose or suicide) within the first four weeks of their incarceration.
And the numbers are showing that addiction problems can become extremely harmful for inmates after they are released. Apparently, formerly incarcerated people are 129 times more likely to die of a fatal overdose in the first two weeks after getting out. They are also 85 percent more likely to succumb to a fatal OD within the first month of their release.
This plays into a bigger argument about people imprisoned for drug offenses. Many advocated believe that throwing people into jail because of their addictions is a dangerous scenario. Not only does it limit them from getting into a proper treatment program, it greatly impact their safety due to prison violence or continued exposure to drugs.
One anonymous doctor spoke out to Mercury News about the report. And he had strong words about how the prison system is failing dependent citizens. “The war on drugs has been an abject failure,” the doctor told the site. “As hundreds of thousands of people are stuck behind bars instead of receiving treatment for their addiction, they are forcibly separated from their support systems, their families, their jobs and the things they need for success. Criminalizing addiction has not reduced substance use disorder or made anyone safer — instead, it has perpetuated a cycle of harm and societal isolation.”
The hope, at the very least, is that those who do find themselves behind bars will at least have more viable options to help with their recovery journies.