Pubdate: Mon, 4 May 1998
Source: New Haven Register
Section: Front Page
Author: William Kaempffer


NEW HAVEN - The most effective way to change criminals' lives is drug
treatment, not stiffer jail terms, according to a study by the National
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

"They're just going to go out there and do more crimes if we don't do
something about the underlying issues," said Joseph A. Califano Jr.,
president of the center and former U.S. secretary of health, education and

Foremost of those underlying issues is addiction to alcohol and other drugs,
he said.

Califano spoke Friday before the Connecticut Probation and Parole
Association, whose members deal daily with felons' efforts to avoid
returning to jail.

According to the report, released earlier this year, addiction or abuse of
alcohol and other drugs played a role in the jailing of 80 percent of the
1.7 million people behind bars today. They may have violated drug laws, been
high at the time of the crime, stole property to finance their habits, or
had a history of abuse and addiction.

"This really drives home the problem of violence and drug and alcohol abuse
in this country," Califano said.

His center's statistics indicate that 17 percent of convicts serving time
for property crimes committed the crime to pay for drugs, and more than 60
percent were regular drug users.

The percentages for repeat offenders is even more startling, Califano said.

Forty-one percent of first-time offenders used drugs regularly, compared to
63 percent of inmates with two convictions and 63 percent for those with
five or more convictions.

To combat that, the center recommends additional funding for in-prison and
post-prison addiction treatment, increased availability of religious and
spiritual activities in prison, possible early release for inmates
successfully completing drug programs, job placement and training after
release, and a major increase in research funding to improve cost-efficient

The group calls for ending mandatory sentencing, contending it robs inmates
of any incentive to go into treatment because they have no hope of early

"The problem is with politicians," said Califano. They want to seem tough on
crime, he said, and therefore are hesitant to give funding to prisons.

His center estimates treatment would cost about $6,500 per inmate, but
maintains it could save more than five times that for each rehabilitated
prisoner in the form of reduced crime, arrest and prosecution costs, medical
care and incarceration costs.