Alternatives to prison
Like most of the state, particularly rural areas, Delta County has a drug problem. But more so than the rest of the state, we’ve decided that the best way to deal with the problem is to send our drug addicts and sellers to state prison. Via our elected Delta County criminal justice officials, we doubled our incarceration rate in 2019 from the previous year, double the state average.
Sounds great, but maybe not.
To afford drugs, addicts sell drugs. Sellers and users are generally the same addicted individuals. We aren’t incarcerating the kingpins we’re incarcerating low level addicts/sellers/mules who are quickly and easily replaced.
Addicts are addicts when they enter prison and they’ll be addicts when they return to the community. State prison doesn’t cure addiction. Recidivism for drug offenders is 77% within five years of release from prison. Wash, rinse, repeat, the cycle keeps cycling.
Regardless of the time they spend in prison, it’s a life sentence. Who’s going to hire these people after release?
On average we spend more than $35,000 per year per prisoner to house, clothe, feed, provide medical and recreational services and supervise state prison inmates.
There are better ways to supervise criminals, local ways. We should be maximizing these alternatives: more use of court diversion options with Vivitrol as an offering; day reporting; mandatory attendance at classes that deal with the reasons criminals became criminals; random drug testing; random home searches for contraband; very visible convict work crews similar to what’s used in Otsego County and Houghton County; more and well trained probation officers; maximum use of technology for monitoring and tracking criminals and swift certain short (less than 30 days) county jail stays for criminals who fail to cooperate with these other forms of supervision.
Use state prison only after all local supervision options have failed.