Pubdate: Fri, 23 Dec 2005
Source: Statesman Journal (Salem, OR)
Copyright: 2005 Statesman Journal
Author: Cara Roberts Murez
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Study Also Shows That Many In County Jail Are Parents

Nearly 75 percent of Marion County jail inmates have used 
methamphetamine.About 40 percent of inmates are in jail as a direct 
result of the drug: possession, manufacturing, delivery or stealing 
to get the cash to buy it.

Many fall below the poverty line. More than half have never had 
employer-paid benefits, have no high-school diploma and at times have 
had no home.

What they do have is children. About 15,000 children annually, maybe 
more, have parents who were or are incarcerated at the Marion County jail.

"That's a lot of kids," said Dr. William Brown, an associate 
professor at Western Oregon University who surveyed the jail 
population. His goal was to gain a clearer picture of inmates and the 
impact that methamphetamine is having on the criminal-justice system, 
social services and families.

Brown, the director of the Northwest regional office of the Center on 
Juvenile & Criminal Justice, surveyed 442 inmates, about 76 percent 
of the population, one day in July. Now, he and student volunteers 
are back to get in-depth answers. Their follow-up results, due in 
January, will be used to understand the issues and measure success of 
a new program aimed at helping inmate parents.

The Children of Incarcerated Parents program began at the jail in the fall.

"The ultimate (question) is how do we protect our children, and part 
of that is making sure the parents that are coming through the 
criminal-justice system leave with the tools and knowledge necessary 
to be better parents," said Marion County Sheriff Raul Ramirez.

Children of Incarcerated Parents, a program similar to one in 13 
Oregon prisons, began at the jail in October with twice-weekly 
classes for parents. The 12-week class graduated its first group on Wednesday.

Based on the survey and other information, Ramirez said, the meth 
problem is being magnified by the need for housing, employment, 
education, parenting skills and drug treatment.

Brown and the sheriff's office are working with businesses, social 
services and groups such as No Meth -- Not in My Neighborhood, to 
address housing, employment and drug-treatment options.

Many of the resources already exist in the community. It's just a 
matter of connecting people to them, Ramirez said. This program does 
not change accountability, Ramirez said, and it's not meant to be 
soft on criminals. Those involved still are expected to pay for their 
crimes, complete their sentences and follow the rules of their probation.

Brown said his survey was like an X-ray to show the extent of the problem.

About 81 percent of those surveyed were men.  Some were parents, but 
the survey wasn't limited to them. About 34 percent were unemployed 
at the time they were jailed. Another 50 percent had jobs that paid 
less than $1,500 per month, and 25 percent had jobs that paid less 
than $1,000 per month.

"They're in a very, very precarious situation here, as far as 
survival goes," Brown said.

The sheriff was surprised by how many parents, especially mothers, 
had used methamphetamine. About 94 percent of mothers and 76 percent 
of fathers said that they had used the drug.

"We know that we had issues, but those numbers are just staggering," 
Ramirez said.

Very alarming, Brown said, are family criminal histories.

"There are patterns here that obviously need some kind of 
addressing," Brown said.

Twenty-seven percent of inmates said their fathers had spent time in 
prison, and 50 percent said their fathers had been in jail. Five 
percent of inmates said their mothers had spent time in prison, and 
18 percent said their moms had been in jail. Far higher numbers of 
inmates reported that their siblings had been incarcerated.

"If you stretch this out 15 to 18 years from now, the brothers and 
sisters are going to be the mothers and fathers," Brown said. "You 
can see the trajectory moving upward."

The next step in the survey is to ask why, Brown said. Why did the 
inmates not graduate from high school? Why are they doing drugs? Why 
do they keep using at the expense of their children?

The answers, and a repeat of the initial survey next July, will make 
the results more credible, Brown said.

Knowing what he knows so far, "warehousing" people in jail is not a 
solution, Ramirez said. "We either do something about it, or the 
problem is not going to go away," Ramirez said. "I think this is an 
opportunity to provide that support. We can turn a negative situation 
into a positive outcome for the kids," Ramirez added. "I want the 
sheriff's office to take a more proactive approach in problem 
solving, rather than just reacting."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman