Commentary: Wasted, in Prison

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, March 2, 2007

How ineffective were drug treatment programs behind bars? Get this: The inspector general found recidivism rates were higher for inmates enrolled in two of the state’s largest drug treatment programs than for inmates who received no treatment. In other words, inmates who were treated were more likely to commit new crimes than those not treated.

The failures investigators documented were stunning. In some cases, contractors were paid for beds that went unfilled, so the cost of treatment zoomed from $3,800 per inmate to over $5,000. Even when addicted inmates were enrolled, months long lockdowns in overcrowded prisons kept them away from required counseling sessions.

More than money is being wasted here. There is no rehabilitation going on behind bars. Released inmates are more drug addicted and more dangerous than when they went in. That puts the public at risk. Sacramento Police Chief Albert Najera told me recently that every police officer shot in this city in the last 15 years has been shot by a parolee.

Our broken prison system is making our neighborhoods more dangerous every day. Could a federal takeover be any worse?


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.