Spectrum Health Systems

The Forgotten Population: Inmates in Recovery

Published On: October 24th, 2018Categories: Spectrum Corrections, Treatment & Recovery

An Airing Addiction Recap


In a recent study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it was found that 84 percent of current inmates in the state prison system were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of their crime. While that may come as a surprise, the need for addiction treatment within the walls of prison, should not.

According to our State Director of Correctional Services, Earl Warren, the DOC’s mission changed back in 2002. Instead of locking up inmates in the name of public safety, then-Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy made it a priority to treat the underlying issues that may have caused inmates to commit crimes in the first place. Changing behaviors, values and attitudes all play a part in a reformed prison system where staff focus on the reasons behind the crime, rather than the crime itself.

“It was the start of a culture shift to protecting public safety by providing inmates with treatment,” Warren stated, when discussing the issue with Dr. Romas Buivydas on the latest episode of Airing Addiction. “Before my time working in corrections, I had never thought about inmates as having a need for treatment. I figured they’re incarcerated and can’t use. But it’s a cycle.”

Paired with addiction treatment, we work with inmates to get them ready to transition back into society and teach them basic life skills – from job hunting to raising children.

“The offenders we work with have been living this addictive, criminal lifestyle and they have been on the outside of social norms for so long that they don’t know how to be a part of society,” Warren continued.

As a result, another DOC study shows that 30 percent of former inmates are still sober after completing residential treatment during their sentence.

Warren himself struggled with a substance use disorder almost 30 years ago. “I drank alcohol for 29 years. I went through a couple of careers, marriages and even lost my children. When I began using crack cocaine, it really brought me to my knees. 27 years ago, I was living under a bridge in Marlborough and I remember trying to get a ride to detox. I called everyone I knew with a car, but I had burned so many bridges that no one wanted to drive me.”

“As it turned out, the person who I hitchhiked a ride from was in long-term recovery, and they took me straight to Framingham where a bed was waiting for me. I haven’t had a drink in 26 years.”

For more on Earl Warren’s story and how Spectrum helps inmates achieve sobriety and sustain recovery, check out the latest episode of Airing Addiction on Facebook and SoundCloud. Hit the “Like” and “Subscribe” buttons so you never miss an episode!

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