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Getting Prisoners Off Drugs

The Internet is a great way to track recent history. By comparing articles from 2011 and 2013, we can capture a sense of flow and positive trends. This is exemplified in a pair of articles about treatment of prisoners in Wyoming for substance abuse.

In 2011, the concern was about not having enough slots available for a new and popular program in Casper. The Star Tribune wrote back then: “At the Casper Re-Entry Center, 100 beds are designated for one-year lock-downs and intense therapeutic treatment programs for inmates. "And we're always full," said Jim Piro, deputy director of treatment for the center. As soon as the program graduates a class, the Wyoming Department of Corrections transports more inmates to the Casper facility, usually the next day.”

This past month, the story was about how successful such programs are, and the list includes facilities in Torrington, Riverton, the women’s center at Lusk and the 100-bed Casper Re-Entry Therapeutic Community.

Best of all are the published statistics. Wyoming’s recidivism rate is the second best in the nation, trailing only Oregon. Keeping offenders from repeating their mistakes is critical. And with 76 percent of prisoners doing time for crimes associated with substance abuse, the 9 to 12 month programs are an important element in keeping criminals from re-offending.

Prisoners are admitted to these intensive therapy programs when they are getting close to their parole date. Instruction offered includes life skills beyond drug avoidance. “The ultimate goal is to give inmates the tools to cope with the stresses of living in society without relapsing into alcohol or drug use, or both.”

The twelve-hour days are split between treatment-focused activities (such as AA and NA sessions) and a half-day of working in the facility kitchen or at other jobs. This type of immersive treatment, for such long periods, is very expensive in civilian life, where residential treatment programs cost many thousands of dollars. But for those incarcerated and already under supervision, it really does seem to be paying huge benefits.

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