Jail Is the Worst Substitute for Drug Treatment

Jail Is the Worst Substitute for Drug Treatment

I’ve gone from jail to the streets. And right back to my addiction.
In 2012, Canada introduced its first-ever mandatory-minimum prison sentences for drug offenses. Subsequently, Pivot Legal Society interviewed 19 people who use drugs to ask them about their experiences with the criminal justice system. Brent (his last name is kept private) first began getting in trouble with the law when he was 18. Now 28, he spent almost half of the past decade inside. The following is from his interview.

It was overcrowded, they were triple bunking. It was my first time in jail and it was horrifying.

I know for a fact that when people know you are new to jail they’ll gang up on you and just give you a beat down just ’cause they can. Or if they check you into [protective custody], it’s like a sport: “Watch this, I’m going to check this guy in.”

There was no needles in jail whatsoever. We were using these needles that were like 10 years old. They were disgusting.

But at the time when I first went in I was coming off of heroin. … My buddy had some heroin so it doesn’t matter what the needle looked like, I just wanted to get unsick. So I used this needle that had dried blood on it.

And it was like trying to put a dull knife in my arm. The lack of clean supplies in jail is detrimental to people’s health. I’m sure that’s just a breeding ground for infectious diseases. A person in the grip of addiction will do anything to get their next fix.

I’m a little surprised that the whole system—didn’t they recognize addiction for what it is? They know the people, they see their faces come in and out of jail all the time. Why is there never any intervention? Are they just happy giving them jail sentences and when the time is up, they release them back to themselves?

It had a profound negative psychological impact on me. There is no question in my mind. … Again, they didn’t have any programs. No emphasis on rehabilitation. And every subsequent time, I never received any treatment, on the inside or on the outside either.

[When I’d get out] they give me a ticket to get downtown, and I usually have a welfare check in my hand. I have nowhere to go and no supports in place. There was no work. There is no mechanism in place to have people, you know, set up when they leave in terms of housing or support or anything of that nature that’s going to help someone when they get out of jail.

I think that’s the predominant reason why in the past 10 years I’ve been in and out of jail. It is the reason why I got stuck in that cycle, because I’ve gone from jail to the streets. And right back to my addiction, and with a few more tools because I’ve learned a few more tricks of the trade in the criminal world to better keep myself in drugs.

Jail—I am trying to word this correctly—jail, it aggravates the situation and it somehow reinforces itself. The addict starts believing they deserve it. After a while they believe they deserve to be jailed and there is no hope, and it just reinforces the whole lifestyle. It reinforces the addictive behavior when there is no mechanism in place to help them with their disease.

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Could not agree more...... The system has to change. People need to get involved and write letters to there local and state law makers ..So all you people out there that are clean now you owe it to the rest still struggling to get off your buts and get in evolved please. There is NO rehabilitation jail or prison it just screws you up more!! being around all the really bad people the things that happen in there will mess up up more .....

I feel the us allows drugs in our country, getting paid, the addicts suffer and than are jailed, forgotten, it's wrong, the addicts need help!! Our world is so messed up

please we must change our way of thinking it is only a matter of common sense that jail is not the place for our loved ones drug courts and law inforcement must change the prehistoric method of tossing addicts into a cell and expect a good result when they are released where is there compassion would they want this for there loved one?

I agree drug addicts need to be in drug rehab I know a loved one in jail over drugs and he isn't getting any help he had a sorry attorney that helped put him there I thought they were suppose to help you not make sure you get no help jails are so overcrowded that theres no room for them all do the smart thing and get these people help instead of treating them as a number some have been told that's all they are just a number jails make a lot of money from prisoners on phone calls alone its insane

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