Kentucky prison inmates can now benefit from addiction aftercare programs. A support program called Supporting Others in Active Recovery (SOAR) will provide residential treatment for substance abuse. The first facility to participate in this program is Northpoint Training Center in Central Kentucky. Ample evidence has illustrated that providing mental health and substance abuse treatment is the best way to prevent relapse and reincarceration for offending individuals.

Justice Secretary John Tilley has spearheaded numerous other substance abuse-related legislation in the state. He and other officials in Kentucky have worked to enact legislation that addresses multiple elements of the opioid crisis and other drug-related public health issues, including response criteria for the Department of Corrections to reduce drug overdoses among inmate and paroled persons.

Nationally, drugs in jail represent a significant issue. People who struggle with drug addiction are statistically more likely to commit crimes. This is evidenced by reports from the U.S. Department of Justice, which indicate that 58% of state prisoners between 2007 and 2009 met the official criteria for drug dependence or drug abuse. The American Journal of Public Health reports that people who are released from prison without receiving treatment are at a higher risk for a drug overdose.

The SOAR Program

Addiction recovery is an important journey. People who struggle with addiction often use illegal means to obtain drugs. Sometimes possession of the drugs themselves or the means used lead to prosecution. When these individuals are incarcerated, it is vital that they have access to drug rehab in jail.

Kentucky’s important work instituting the SOAR program is a helpful step toward providing the right resources to inmates. This program will include:

Separate living spaces will be provided for inmates in the SOAR program. The environment, daily schedule and program elements are all designed to provide support in recovery and reduce relapse and return to crime.

The Department of Corrections has a variety of requirements for inmates who want to participate in this program. Inmates who are eligible for the SOAR program must:

  • Have completed the Department of Corrections substance abuse program or graduated from moral reconation therapy
  • Have clear conduct for a minimum of 60 days
  • Be in the appropriate risk classification category
  • Actively maintain a job assignment while in the program

Participants will be assisted by a clinician and receive an individualized treatment plan. A standardized curriculum and system of rewards or credits are integral aspects of the program. Additional modules or supportive educational resources include classes in soft skills, parenting and anger management. Kentucky’s Department of Corrections has high hopes for the effectiveness of this program in helping individuals recover from addiction and maintain long-term sobriety.

Benefits of the Program

Substance abuse treatment and recovery programs in prisons have a long history of celebrated success. Early research indicated that there are several elements that contribute to the success of correctional facility treatment programs for addiction, including:

  • Self-help and empowerment approach to mental health
  • A variety of treatment options
  • Providing immediate help to individuals who use drugs chronically
  • Physical separation of inmates in treatment from other residents
  • Clearly established rules and rewards
  • A staff of empathetic persons, including peers and previous offenders
  • Follow-up community care (after release)
  • Ongoing program evaluation

The recovery process for drug and alcohol addiction varies based on the nature and duration of drug use. Recovery support can be created in an environment where peer relationships are formed and strengthened. Recovery skills will need to be cultivated to prevent relapse after release.

Crime is a drain on government resources. Imprisonment represents the highest cost to a local, state or federal government. Lifetime simulation models created by researchers for the Health Economics Journal indicate that with as many as 61% of prisoners who tested positive for substance abuse are recommitted to prison for subsequent crimes. If treated in prison, many of those people will have success in remaining sober. This, in turn, significantly decreases their likelihood to commit a crime and be reincarcerated.

Providing effective medical and mental health treatment for addiction can decrease criminality and contribute positively to society. Treatment programs that occur in detention facilities may provide a helpful source of support for people in addiction recovery.

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