Pubdate: Tue, 22 Mar 2016
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2016 Dayton Daily News
Author: Mary Sanchez, She writes for the Kansas City Star


Nancy Reagan's recent death was a reminder of the shallow moralizing 
of the Just Say No anti-drug campaign she once championed.

Thankfully, attitudes have changed. We're more attuned to the fact 
that untreated mental health issues often are a precursor to drug 
use. Nancy's slogan won't help much there.

Most people realize that the war on drugs, begun under President 
Richard Nixon, has failed.

And there's growing public awareness that we've let our jails and 
prisons become warehouses for people who need treatment - and who 
needed it long before they took a criminal turn.

Incarceration rates are dropping. To most, this is good news. But 
it's not if your business model revolves around keeping people locked up.

The for-profit prison industry has kept one step ahead of the trend. 
For those familiar with the term "prison-industrial complex," meet 
its offspring - the "treatment-industrial complex."

A report released in February by Grassroots Leadership, a civil and 
human rights organization, rings some warning bells. The report, 
"Incorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer Turns Care into Confinement," is 
part of a series of reports that has focused on reducing the nation's 
dysfunctional criminal justice system.

This latest installment takes an in-depth look at the privatization 
efforts in Texas, Florida and South Carolina.

In particular, it goes after the shifting business models of 
for-profit prison operators Corrections Corp. of America and GEO 
Group, as well as such spinoff rehabilitation companies as Correct 
Care Solutions.

The charge is that these new for-profit treatment places are not 
about helping people regain their mental stability and, therefore, 
their release. The report also challenges the quality of care, citing 
cases of violence and patient deaths.

One startling figure from the report: 50 percent of people in 
correctional facilities suffer from mental health and substance abuse 
disorders. This compares to estimated rates of only 1 percent to 3 
percent within the U.S. population. If a prison operator also has a 
side business in mental health care, a conflict of interest presents itself.

The operator has a clear incentive to keep a person there indefinitely.

The Grassroots Leadership report points out that these private 
operators offer cost savings to a state when the facility is full: 
The cost per head goes down.

A basic set of circumstances and decisions has set the stage in many 
states. Legislatures have cut public mental health budgets. 
Community-based programs also are being shorted. That leads to more 
untreated people who find themselves in a criminal justice system.

Many of these people are not in a position to self-advocate for 
better care. Locked up, they are easily forgotten. One question must 
continuously be asked by legislators, advocates and the taxpayers 
whose dollars are being spent: In a for-profit model, what possible 
incentive does a rehabilitation company have to help people regain 
stability and rejoin society?

If such an incentive neither exists nor outweighs the profit motive, 
it's hard to see how private-sector rehab programs won't make matters worse.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom