After years in prison, freedom is just around the corner. Tom served his time and will rejoin society soon. But what are his options? With no job and no money, Tom’s likely to return to his previous lifestyle. He’ll be surrounded by triggers and find it extremely difficult to stay clean. In fact, his odds of overdosing within the first 30 days of release are extremely high.
Like Tom, many inmates are released from their cells, but they’re still prisoners of addiction. Re-integrating into society is difficult, and many former inmates don’t make it.
In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health found their recently-released inmates are “56 times more likely to die of an opioid-related overdose than the general public.”
Making Freedom Safer
Massachusetts corrections offices are working to improve these statistics.
Officials in several counties applied for federal funding to improve services for inmates who are on the verge of re-entering society and fighting substance abuse problem.
Just how bad is the need? At the Bristol County House of Corrections, 85 percent of inmates have a substance abuse problem, a majority of them struggling with opioid addiction.
With such dire numbers, the much-needed grants were awarded. Now five Massachusetts county jails will receive a total of $500,000 in federal funding. Governor Charlie Baker announced these funds will “support access to medication-assisted treatment and connections to community-based treatment and recovery services.”
The county jails will focus these efforts on prisoners approaching their release dates.
A Step in the Right Direction
The Bristol County House of Corrections was also granted $100,000. These funds will be used to assist inmates who have been diagnosed with an opioid use disorder and scheduled for release within 60 days. The inmates will receive:
- A case manager
- A clinical assessment
- A treatment and recovery plan – including medications when appropriate
- Treatment and recovery support for up to one year after release
The hope is to improve the odds for inmates, by providing better options for those leaving prison under the cloud of substance abuse. Efrain Baez, director of Brockton peer recovery support center, has worked with many inmates and notes, “The more options made available before an inmate leaves prison, the better chance they have to make it.”
Jonathan Darling, the public information officer for the office of Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, explains this is exactly the goal of these programs. Darling explained, “We want to do everything we can to make sure that when they get back into the community, they stay clean, and stay sober.”
Additional Reading: Released from Prison…and Still Addicted
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