Can Prison Help Treat Addiction?

Playing Is Forcing Addicts into Prison for Treatment a Good Practice?

Treating addiction is never simple, but are the 37 states which allow people to be involuntarily committed for drug treatment on to something? The Doctors, retired judge Mary Chrzanowski, and addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky discuss whether forcing addicts into prison for drug treatment is a good practice or the start of further issues.

Judge Mary has concerns about this approach. She believes these individuals need treatment but not in a prison setting, saying, "They're not criminals, they have an illness, and we need to treat the illness." She feels this approach should only be used when someone is a threat to themselves or others.

Watch: Does It Save Addicts Lives to Force Them into Prison Treatment Programs?    

Dr. Drew tells The Doctors that "addiction is a fatal disease" and notes that people who are addicted to opioids die more often than people who battle cancer. He is in favor of this apporach and feels addiction needs to treated like any other disease or mental health issue and not addressing it is criminal. 

The panel agrees treatment for people addicted to drugs and alcohol is vital, but acknowledge that where it takes place and in what setting should be further examined.

Prisoner’s Legal Services attorney Bonnie Tenneriello also joins the discussion, saying she does not feel this approach helps with addiction. She feels people put in prison for addiction will resent the program, not be receptive to treatment and feel shamed. "We need to put those resources in a healthcare setting where it belongs," she says.

Watch: Mom Shares Her Son Died in Prison Treatment Facility

Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi, who runs an involuntary addiction treatment program in Hampden County, Massachusetts says in his 129-bed rehabilitation facility, people getting treatment for addiction are not mixed in with people who have committed crimes. He feels the alternate option to his facility is death. "We are saving lives," he says.

Hear more from our panel about this controversial approach to treating drug and alcohol addiction in the video below, including who funds these types of programs and what types of services are provided to addicts after their stay. Also, find out how you can find the right treatment facility for yourself or a loved one.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction please call the confidential and free National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or visit their website.


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