On any given day, there are millions of inmates in correction facilities. Estimated costs for keeping an inmate in jail are around $60 per inmate, per day. While we must consider the safety of our citizens, many people are looking to reduce the number of inmates in this country by reducing sentences for non-violent inmates and decriminalizing certain crimes, like the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Treatment programs have been successful
With budget cuts affecting nearly every state, committees across the country must find ways keep their inmates out of jail. This can be done by offering the best state-run drug and alcohol treatment programs at the lowest cost — however, more and more states are considering cutting those programs.
Washington Country, TN has decided to cut its drug and alcohol rehab programs for inmates. “We worked since ’99 to keep it,” Sheriff Ed Graybeal said. “Everybody else lost it in the state but us, we were able to keep it until year and funding just went south on us and we couldn’t do it anymore. We tried to find some more funding out there for it, but there’s nothing there right now.” (1)
Tennessee’s 6-to-9-month program was successful, in that 60-65% of inmates who went through it avoided returning to jail. “It just taught them they could do something with their life basically and kind of give them some structure to go with it,” Graybeal said. “If a person wanted to get in it and wanted to do himself or her some good, it worked, but they had to want to. They had to want to make the change.” (1)
Keeping RSAT programs
Other states are committed to continuing their Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) programs, even if it means more costs up front, because keeping inmates on the out of jail and on the right track benefits everyone. Michigan has some strong RSAT programs that help inmates rehabilitate. “(It is a part of) the whole intervention/detention center philosophy we have here,” Sheriff Tim Donnellon said. “You have an obligation to make these people better equipped to handle life when they leave than they were when they got here.” (2)
Illinois is divided with people on both sides of the issue. While many see the money that would be cut from the budget if they discontinued funding to the RSAT programs, others say those kinds of cuts would mean more inmates would be back in the system.”If you remove those programs, you’re essentially adding more people to the prison system,” said John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group. (3) However, authorities in Illinois have proposed to close six of the state’s eight prisoner transition centers. Other rehab programs could face cuts as large as $1 million.