Recovery from the Inside Out: A Cognitive Approach to Rehabilitation. (Feature)
Konopa, Jessica B., Chiauzzi, Emil, Portnoy, David, Litwicki, Thomas M., Corrections Today
Authors' Note: Please note that any mention of SMART in this article refers to SMART Recovery[R]. "SMART," "SMART Recovery" and "4-Point Program" are all property of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Self-Help Network.
America was founded on the principles of freedom and free will -- a simple notion with enormous implications. It suggests freedom of speech and thought. It evokes the separation of church and state, and the right to worship, or to abstain from religious practice. But, as evidenced in recent court cases, many inmates feel that although they are incarcerated, they are being denied these very basic constitutional protections and have been coerced into attending substance abuse programs they believe are religiously based.
During the past six years, controversy has risen surrounding correctional substance abuse rehabilitation programs that require offenders to participate in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These programs encourage a belief in a "higher power," which has been highly successful for thousands of people across the country. Although AA and NA literature point out that the higher power concept does not refer to any particular god or religion, numerous references to "God" in AA's Big Book and the common practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer at AA and NA meetings suggest to some that involvement in these programs means involvement in religion. It quickly becomes evident that this method could be a difficult fit for people who want to exclude religion from their treatment. Multiple court cases challenging this mandatory attendance have pivoted on the constitutional issue of state-sponsored religion. The resulting legal decisions have created the need for secular recovery programs in seven states to date: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin.
The first major case on this subject was decided in Wisconsin in 1996. In Kerr v. Farrey, 95 F.3d 472 (7th Cir.), an inmate at a minimum-security correctional facility claimed that the NA program he was forced to attend as part of his rehabilitation contained "explicit religious content." Having found this approach to recovery offensive and in direct opposition to his beliefs, he attempted to quit the meetings and was told by his prison social worker that if he did not attend, he would receive a higher security risk classification and probably be denied parole. In its ruling, the court found, "The state has impermissibly coerced inmates to participate in a religious program."
A similar case (Griffin v. Coughlin, 88 N.Y.2d 674.) emerged in New York in 1996, when an inmate was denied eligibility to participate in his facility's Family Reunion Plan because he refused to attend Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Program (ASAT) meetings, which he claimed were based on AA's religious principles. While the court did not decry the efficacy of AA as a recovery program, it found for the plaintiff and cited in its decision that "a fair reading of the fundamental AA doctrinal writings discloses that their dominant theme is unequivocally religious."
In Warner v. Orange County Department of Probation, l15 F.3d 1068 (2d Cir.), in 1997, an offender was awarded damages because he had been ordered to attend AA meetings as a condition of his probation. This decision could set a precedent for damages to those people compelled by the government to attend 12-step recovery programs. In its ruling, the court found AA to be "deeply religious" in nature.
In all these cases, various courts held that coercion to attend 12-step programs, and administrative decisions based on attendance, was unlawful and could not be enforced under current rule. The sweeping result of the preceding cases has been multiple mandates for secular substance abuse program options in all affected states. To avoid possible …
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Publication information: Article title: Recovery from the Inside Out: A Cognitive Approach to Rehabilitation. (Feature). Contributors: Konopa, Jessica B. - Author, Chiauzzi, Emil - Author, Portnoy, David - Author, Litwicki, Thomas M. - Author. Magazine title: Corrections Today. Volume: 64. Issue: 5 Publication date: August 2002. Page number: 56+. © 2009 American Correctional Association, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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