Heroin-Addicted Offenders and Sobriety upon Release from Jail

By Foster, Rebecca | American Jails, January/February 2018 | Go to article overview

Heroin-Addicted Offenders and Sobriety upon Release from Jail


Foster, Rebecca, American Jails


As of 2013, more than 2 million Americans met the criteria for opioid abuse, with 517,000 of those identifying as heroin users. The National Institutes of Health (2013) stated that more than 200,000 Americans pass through U.S. correctional systems each year, and while incarcerated, offenders can obtain treatment to help maintain a path to sobriety once released. Many studies show the correlation between heroin use and crime and recidivism and the loss of social supports, family ties, employment, and health in terms of numbers and percentages. Heroin or the heroin addicts' experiences cannot be fully considered without taking into account the element of criminal activity, loss of normalcy and quality of life, incarceration, and recidivism, as well as the desire to be drug free and the prospect of treatment.

The criminal aspect of heroin use must also be examined as heroin addicts made up approximately 70% of the 8 million offenders incarcerated as of 2013, with one-third of heroin addicts passing through prisons and jails each year. Every crime committed not only affects the heroin user but the community as a whole in terms of costs associated with recouping losses, criminal proceedings costs, and incarceration costs. When users enter the correctional system as incarcerated offenders, they enter into a de facto healthcare system where they will obtain health services that provide the care they need-specifically detoxification in this case.

Literature shows that offenders released into society face many barriers that impede success towards integration, employment, and sobriety. In regard to addiction, healthcare workers and public health officials must keep in mind the need for treatment options available to offenders prior to and upon release; the lack of opportunities for positive social change are predominant in addicted offender release situations. Research has shown that access to medical care and drug treatment therapy (DTT) immediately upon release is imperative for the success of the addicts' path to sobriety, but there is often a lack of service consistency due to financial barriers and a shortage of providers available to serve heroin-addicted offenders.

Significance of the Study

Zarkin et al. (2015) state that the majority of research on offenders, heroin addiction, treatment, and recidivism is from prison inmate perspectives, not jail settings, thus most of the findings pertain to State inmates and detainees. The study cited in this American Jails article is original and unique in that it brings in the perspectives and experiences of the offenders in jail during a difficult transition time that poses a threat to positive life and social change. This research also provided insight into DTT benefits, thereby shedding light on a healthcare pathway for community and jail officials for better treatment options for heroin-addicted offenders.

When we consider the United States and the costs associated with heroin abuse, we can see how detrimental this drug addiction is in terms of overdose, treatment, criminal issue, and corrections expenditures. Understanding the addicted mind, and how it experiences drug use, cravings, relapse, and sobriety may shed light on needed or missed steps and elements of current policies and procedures.

Heroin Addicts and Crime

Criminal activity and imprisonment are common happenings among heroin-addicted individuals. Those who use heroin have a high frequency of criminal behavior, and certain crimes are commonly associated with heroin use, such as shoplifting, burglary, and robbery. In an attempt to keep up with a daily heroin addiction and its expenses, users may resort to "income-generating crimes," which tend to harm all affected, including family, friends, the legal system and the community-with heroin users being more of a burden on public health than all mental disorders combined.

Recidivism and Heroin Addicts

Heroin addiction and recidivism correlate, because once a heroin addict is released from incarceration the chances of them reverting back to previous behaviors and habits is possible, which includes committing crimes. …

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