There are countless ways to lose your freedom. Addiction is the most seductive and destructive of them. It takes away every kind of pain as it strips away your soul. There’s a false freedom on route to becoming chemically imprisoned.
For many of us, jails and prisons are a six by eight piece of purgatory along the highway to hell. Here too, addiction is counterintuitive. I’ve worked with a lot of folks who felt their safest in orange. It’s not like you can’t get drugs while incarcerated, it’s just easier not to.
When you’re locked up there’s a lot of time to think. “How did I end up here? How will I get through this?” Most of all, “What the f@ck do I do when I get out?”
We do what we do until we know a better way.
Our imprisoned brothers and sisters are captive audiences and we generally don’t engage them. One of the first things a person loses upon being incarcerated is any form of treatment that isn’t due to urgent medical need. This has to change.
It’s a testament to the War on Drugs that the number of individuals incarcerated for drug offenses has skyrocketed over the past three decades. Recidivism is all too common. In the throes of addiction, bars become revolving doors.
Cumberland County Jail is currently hosting a remarkable volunteer program that offers intensive addictions treatment to inmates. Members of the nonprofit ANEW Approach along with volunteers from the University of New England’s social work program are providing something that not only has the capacity to save lives but could also result in fiscal savings to correctional facilities in Maine.
Despite all we know about the burdens addiction places on our state, we continue to offer little or nothing in the way of treatment in most of Maine’s jails and prisons. ANEW has a fund raising drive to continue it’s program. I urge everyone whose life has been affected by addiction to pledge support. Directly or indirectly, all of us have been harmed. It’s time to do far more to save lives.