Helping Heroin Addicts in Jail Avoid Relapse after Release
Author: Justin Mckibben
In America it has been pointed out time and time again how prison systems seem to lack the necessary resources to properly assess and treat convicts who struggle with mental health disorders or drug addiction, in a big way. Often referred to as an industrial prison system, or jails and institutions have been described as warehousing for the most marginalized and stigmatized individuals in the nation, and with the current drug policy and the raging opiate epidemic there is a serious need for help heroin addicts in jail.
Drug addiction leads to prison for so many, and once in prison many heroin addicts in jail find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of relapse and reconviction. Heroin addicts in jail will be released into an unkind and unaccepting world without the proper tools or treatment to help them avoid their old behaviors, so many relapse and get arrested all over again.
Thankfully in the past year or so we have begun to see a shift in the way prisoners in the United States are being given access to means to which they can restructure their lives in a position of recovery. In Massachusetts a new program is being developed by the Hampshire County opioid task force that is working to keep heroin addicts in jail and other drug offenders out of jail.
Imprisoned by Addiction
One prisoner involved in the new program in Massachusetts is Sean Piech, who for years has been in and out of jail for committing crimes to support his heroin addiction. In a recent interview Piech admitted that the struggle to find a way to stay clean has been a decade long trial for him, stating:
“I’m struggling with the heroin for ten years now. The most difficult thing I’ve done in my entire life.”
Now thanks to initiatives to get recovery into institutions the Hampshire County House of Correction in Northampton allows inmates like Sean to have access to the rehab they desperately need to live a sober life, but beyond that is the issue of relapse people like Sean have so often faced. Sean knows when he’s released very soon he could easily return to his old habits.
Recently news reporters were invited into Hampshire County House of Correction in Northampton to experience how community organizations are striving tirelessly to prevent heroin addicts in jail from relapsing, returning to jail, or dying of overdoses.
Substance Abuse Aftercare
Melinda Cady, Assistant Deputy Superintendent of the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office has pointed out the short period of time before heroin addicts in jail are released is often an extremely critical time for them. Cady has said a new substance abuse aftercare workshop now offers resources to heroin addicts in jail, giving them useful information on:
- How to use the overdose reversal drug Narcan
- How to sign up for health insurance
- How to find a place to live once released
- How to get help with relapse prevention
Some inmates have been incarcerated multiple times for crimes related to heroin addiction, and some have even heard of programs available to them before, but many of these heroin addicts in jail have come to realize that the only way they’ll have a chance at lasting recovery and avoiding reconviction is if they have the willingness to want to change their lives.
Richard Furioni is another of the heroin addicts in jail who said he got addicted to heroin very quickly after trying it with a friend, which ultimately led to anger problems and eventually his incarceration. In regards to utilizing the substance abuse aftercare workshops and getting more informed on how to live a life in recovery Furioni said,
“I need to definitely go to meetings and have support and not just go back to the old places and old people I was hanging out with,”
This past Monday morning was the fourth monthly workshop held at the Hampshire County House of Correction in Northampton. 17 of the heroin addicts in jail with a history of drug addiction, each about 30 days until their release date, were reminded of the resources available to them once they leave their cells to rejoin society.
Cady said one of those moments that show how important this new collaboration is, while expressing the success in helping heroin addicts in jail start new, clean lives was when four of those 17 inmates who previously did not want to be involved in helpful organizations signed up on Monday, and were finally ready to take the steps to help themselves.
More and more we see efforts like this being put forth to try and improve upon the hand many have been dealt concerning their addictions and issues with mental health disorders once they have been incarcerated. Many hope one day the entire country will have such progressive and supportive programs in place for drug offenders and heroin addicts in jail and in prison to reduce the rate at which people who struggle with addiction find themselves stuck in that cycle.
The hope is that it doesn’t take drug addicts from going to jail or prison to find recovery, and everyday lives are being saved and ultimately changed by progressive and comprehensive treatment programs with the intentions of keeping people out of that cycle and getting them into the life they deserve.
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