Prison Drug Treatment Would Reduce Overcrowding, Crime, Budgets Say Robert Weiner, Ex-White House Drug Spokesman & Chicago Expert Daphne Baille;

Oct 16, 2010, 14:59 ET from Robert Weiner Associates

Deficit Commission Should Heed Savings

WASHINGTON and CHICAGO, Oct. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Prison drug treatment would reduce overcrowding, crime, and budgets, say Robert Weiner, ex-White House Drug Spokesman, and Chicago expert Daphne Baille, communications director for Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).

In a top-of-page featured oped column in today's Chicago Sun-Times, Weiner and Baille point out, "2.3 million Americans are in prison—number one in the world.  That's up 4-1/2 times from 500,000 in 1980. The annual U.S. incarceration cost is over $60 billion dollars."

"Most of the increases are due to prosecution of drug abusers starting in the 80s. A whopping 68% of arrestees test positive for illegal drugs, according to Justice Department surveys of 30 cities."

They propose "a solution other than drug abusers behind bars—treatment. Despite 68% of arrestees testing positive for drugs, only 14% of prisoners receive treatment."

"Birmingham, Alabama was able to halt building a new prison when they instituted an arrestees' drug treatment program 15 years ago."

"When we asked the warden's office at the Attica (New York) prison if they had a drug treatment program, the staff told us, 'We're not a drug prison.' The problem is, every prison needs to be a 'drug' prison which provides treatment."

They quote Sentencing Project Director Marc Mauer, who called the prison-drugs recidivism cycle "a 25-year quagmire."  Weiner and Baille point to Sheridan Correctional Center near Chicago, where prisoners who completed treatment after release were 85% less likely to return to prison.

"We pay $25,000 a year to incarcerate someone; treatment costs a few thousand for an entire year."

"The President's Deficit Commission will recommend how to lower the deficit after the elections.  They should heed House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers' (D-Detroit) concern that there is more attention to law enforcement than treatment of the drug problem.

They contend, "Congress should double the $5 billion budgeted for treatment and prevention in and out of prison.  According to UCLA, for every treatment dollar, taxpayers save $7 in reduced crime and costs.  This $5 billion would translate to $35 billion savings for American taxpayers."

They conclude, "Did you hear that, Deficit Commission?"  

Link: (full article) or,CST-EDT-open16a.article (published)

Contact: Bob Weiner/Gavriel Swerling 301-283-0821 or 202-306-1200

SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates