Monday, February 15, 2010

#35 Rehabilitation or Punishment (retro)

Rehabilitation or Punishment

I hope you guys have had time to check out my other blogs, I think I am just over 50 blogs on my sites, which is like 150-200 pages of writing. Feel free to jump back a few to check out what I have written, and also feel free to email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com to ask about my books or how you can support my writing.

In fact, today’s blog is about a past blog.

This morning I checked my email and got a comment from a blog I wrote a few days ago. If you have read the blog, “What to do when…” then you are up to speed. If not, you may want to check that out before you go further with this one. I think it is my 49th blog, but if you jump back about 3 or so blogs you will find it.

The blog was written for a reader who’s loved one was caught with some drugs while in prison, and they put him in a rehab without visitation and phone privileges for 90 days. I won’t go too much into that, you can read about the discussion in the blog I mentioned.

Since then, there has been some comments on it and I wanted to revisit this issue. As many of you know, I write on 7 different sites, so the comments I get can come from any of those 7. And a couple that I got seemed to seriously question the validity of preventing an inmate to have visits or contact with loved ones.

But another comment I got mentions that sometimes the worst people to be in contact with when you are in recovery are those in your immediate circle, because many of them are in the temptation themselves, as some of them are drug users.

So, let’s talk about that. In a case like this, or one similar, is the action of putting an inmate in rehab and taking away his visits and phone calls for 3 months part of the recovery program, or additional punishment?

Note first that there is no absolute right and wrong answer here because there are infinite circumstances that make the difference in what is done. But since we are only going on what we have, I want to try to blog out my thoughts.

We all know that prisons are not just about separation and punishment, it is also SUPPOSED to be about rehabilitation. Every prison has a responsibility to try to make help available for an inmate to better himself. The problem is most prisons don’t do that at all, and fewer still actually put sincerity into it. Lots of guys are in prison that need help, but will never get it. Even those that do are put in programs that can help, but is only part of the solution.

In the case of the a guy getting put in rehab, you first have to identify if there is a record of the guy having serious drug issues. Was he arrested on a drug-related charge? Did he break any rules while in prison that are related to drugs? Have they been done multiple times? If so, then I cannot argue the idea that maybe the person needs to be enrolled in some drug rehab program.

But who makes that decision? Who is qualified to say, “he used drugs, so he has a drug problem” or “he drinks alcohol, he has a drinking problem”. Where is the line of excess drawn, and who is qualified to say it?

To prove a point, let’s play a game:

Choose the right answer to the following question: How much alcohol do you think I have drank in my lifetime?

A. 100 gallons
B. 500 gallons
C. 1000 gallons
D, More than C

I’ll give you a minute to think on that…..


Ok, got it, good, what was your answer?


“How do you know I was wrong, you don’t know what I answered!”

Doesn’t matter. You’re wrong because the right answer isn’t up there.

In my lifetime, I have probably drank a total of about a half a gallon of alcohol. I drank a couple of cups at a fraternity party, I had about 2 cans of beer, a bottle or two of Peach Snapps and a 40 ounce can of beer that I could never finish…ALL during my college years.

I don’t drink.

But some of you were led to believe I did, and probably immediately assumed that regardless of the answer, I had a drinking problem. You see, we’re all experts in our own minds.

The same can be applied to inmates and rehab programs.

Many prisons put guys in there not because they have identified a serious drug or alcohol problem, but only because they THINK they should be there. I am not going to belittle the fact that there are many guys that need to get into the AA and DART programs, but somehow there is a serious flaw in how prisons do it. You just don’t throw guys in AA or DART and expect them to change simply because YOU think they should.

No rehabilitation works until the person in question WANTS it to work. Thousands of guys go to these meetings, and many will fail or ignore everything they were told, because deep inside, they didn’t want to go there in the first place. They go because there is merit time awarded if they complete the class, and other benefits like a special visit or transfer to a prison closer to home.

But the true meaning of the rehabilitation was never touched…sincerity.

Prisons know this, but they continue to put people in the programs KNOWING that it is not going to work for them. It’s not enough to just throw somebody in there, what is the prison doing to support that person?


Now here is how I see it: If the person in question was caught on a charge involving drugs, and they sent him to a drug rehab with NO visits and NO phone calls for 90 days, then I have to know how the inmate feels about it.

IF the inmate agreed to it, and sees this as a chance for him to beat the drug habit, then great for him, and my very best wishes to him to fight the addiction. If HE sees this as a chance to recover, then I am all for it, even if it means losing time for contact with a loved one…his recovery over this addiction has got to have top priority…he’s got to beat this thing before he gets out of prison, lest he falls prey to it again.

But IF this is the suggestion of the prison, and the inmate had no choice, then I cannot accept anything but the idea that this is a form of punishment. The prison has stripped his ability to keep in contact with his loved ones, but yet justifies it by covering it with a “rehab program”. To me, it’s not about the rehabilitation…it’s about punishing him.

If there was true sincerity in the rehab, surely the prison has to understand that if there is no support, the program cannot possibly work. You cannot isolate a person from his loved ones and expect him to beat a drug addiction…that is unreasonable under any circumstances.

Now one can argue that sometimes a person’s friends can be a cause of drug use too, and I agree, but the PRISON does not have that authority nor expertise to ASSUME that everyone in that person’s life are drug users. To assume that is overstepping their boundaries and seems to allow the prison to decide whether that inmate gets support or not.

To do that, the prison has to assume that the inmate’s mother uses drugs and is thus a risk…or his girlfriend uses drugs and is a risk…or his brother, sister, grandmother, best friend, pen pal, minister, ect.

What man or woman can honestly declare that of any inmate?

When these prisons take these privileges away, they are handicapping the chance of that person to successfully recover in rehab. Where do they think the support is going to come from if they cannot call home, or get a visit?

I have no objection to a shorter period of time without such contact, such as the first month or so, but 90 days is way too long, and cannot possibly serve a purpose in rehabilitation. It only seems to support additional punishment.

A person in AA or DART needs ALL the support they can get, so why take away their strongest sources, and still expect them to succeed? It’s like society expecting inmates to come out of prison and walk on water, but these same people won’t give them a job because of their past.

I knew a bunch of guys that were in AA or DART, and at no time did I ever hear of these guys being denied visits or phone calls during their time. I think there was a short period like a month or so where they might not have been allowed a visit, but don’t quote me on that.

But if a prison is putting inmates in a rehab without phone calls and visits, it seems to me to be nothing but additional punishment. And keep in mind, we’re talking about a guy that got a charge involving drugs, so it just seems too convenient that he gets put in a rehab while also suffering the lost off contact.

If it were me, I would have rather pleaded guilty to the charge and staying in the hole for a month, or even two months. It’s like the reader told me, she would have rather he got that because he could still get visits.

I just don’t see the sincerity of the prison to rehabilitate, it just seems like they did that to justify punishment and loss of privileges. I can’t see why the visits need to be stripped away, it is the strongest form of support in the prison system for inmates by far. Yes sometimes people can try to slip contraband in during visits, but that is why they have strip searches after the visit.

I don’t see why phone calls should be stripped away. When a guy feels down, he has to find someone to talk to, and a call home or to a loved one helps a LOT more than talking to another inmate. Both of these privileges are about positive and constructive support; why would you restrict that from an inmate for 90 days?

Even IF that was part of the deal, at least allow the inmate one more visit or phone call BEFORE he begins the rehab. That way he can explain what is going on, rather than having a loved one on the other end worry about what is going on. To me it just seems too underhanded, and a complete lack of sincerity to the inmate and his loved ones on the other side of the wall. The prison has seemingly done everything possible to make this NOT work…

Which is why in many cases, it doesn’t.

It is critical that guys in prison get the help they need, there is no argument about that, but before a man or woman can beat the addiction, they first have to WANT to beat it. After that, then there must be a support system that gives that person every chance to beat the addiction, with the support of the prison AND that inmate’s loved ones. You don’t just throw inmates in a hole and “hope for the best”.

Anyway, I hope that reader can find some resolutions to this situation, there are indeed numerous ways of looking at this, and by no means am I giving you the gospel. But it gives you something to think on. Everybody in society expects inmates to change when they get out, but many don’t realize that many prisons don’t take the effort to help inmates, but will rather “go through the motions” just to say they did. And when those inmates fail again, we point at them and say that they are failures…

Never realizing that it is partially a product of the system that never cared in the first place.

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