I thought it was a truism only for free people: you find things in the last place you should look. But it happens in a prison, too.
The last place anyone should expect to find caches and stashes of illicit drugs is in a drug-treatment program, particularly one in a maximum-security prison, the home base of women who ruined their lives – at least temporarily – with bad choices brought on by drugs. But this facility’s highly-touted Marilyn Baker Program, in its colonial-style brick manor, makes this place less like a prison and more like a Pi-Phi house because it’s the place where inmates party the most.
I once wondered why the drug program’s housing unit, the Davis Building, was the only one on the prison compound still awaiting the installation of security cameras. But after one inmate took enough Xanax to make her slur her words and tell people she was screwing a member of the staff, I know why there aren’t cameras. Not only would the crimes of drug dealing and statutory rape be revealed, all the good stuff might be missed with a stationary surveillance lens. The building’s better suited to the roving cameras of Girls Gone Wild. I don’t think they’re still making those videos which is too bad because the drug program here would have provided some good footage.
Wardens once hailed prison drug treatment programs as revolutionary in that they acknowledged how deeply entrenched addiction had become in criminal behavior. Treating addicts while they did time honored victims’ wishes, deferred to the state’s punishment and deterrence goals and promised to rehabilitate offenders whose real problems were less character-based and more drug-induced. Approaches like Marilyn Baker Program were supposed to hit multiple jailbirds with one stone.
But participants attend supportive “groups” where they sell, swallow, sniff and space out. Drug users hone their manipulation and hustling skills and play them thoroughly when they land in Marilyn Baker’s group settings, passing around as much weight as I bet you see in a season Breaking Bad. I don’t really know. I haven’t seen it yet. The last time I watched cable Girls Gone Wild was still in production.
Recent research suggests that these group settings don’t and won’t work. For one, the community, not just the patient, has to be sober, not doing dirt but staying clean, for treatment to work. Anne Fletcher’s new book, Inside Rehab, reveals that group settings like the Marilyn Baker Program also won’t work if they are too dedicated to the ‘confrontational model’ of Alcoholics Anonymous, which Marilyn Baker is.
Much of Alcoholics Anonymous is very philosophical. I mean, it’s actually called a philosophy. When you try to spoon feed theory or a “medical model” to people whose cognition has been chipped away by drug use, you’re likely to get it spit back at you, unless the inmate’s using it to wash down her smuggled Ativan. Many members just aren’t intellectually capable of handling the content of group addiction therapy.
This statement may sound harsh but it was actually reported in the book The Farm, which is a kind of ethnography of this very prison. The author, a journalist named Andi Rierden, interviewed two inmates who left the Marilyn Baker program back in the nineties when the in-prison rehab was new. “During the A.A. meetings they’d talk about Bill’s story and I couldn’t fucking understand it,” one told Rierden. Another prisoner told the reporter: “I didn’t know what the hell was going on either.” At least those two got out of a situation they didn’t comprehend. The ones who stay just wreck any progress they might have made in spite of themselves by popping a Percoset and blowing a C/O.
It’s totally unkind and politically incorrect to suggest that prisoners may have – on average, average, calm down – lower intelligence than the general public but it would be a conclusion I can make knowing the population in here. Women have endured years of drug use and trauma (elevated levels of cortisol are associated with cognitive decrements) and, to top that structural damage, they suffer from undereducation. I think people expect to find cunning criminal geniuses when they look inside a prison, but here’s the last place they should look. Try the Pi Phi house instead.
I asked my sister to google “prisoners and I.Q.” and she sent me a copy of a seventy-five year old article that would never have been indulged with publisher’s ink today. The study reported that 42.2 percent of prisoners’ intelligence was below average versus 20% of the general population. The average inmate I.Q. in the study was about 90. Of course, I.Q. tests include questions on acquired knowledge so they aren’t a completely accurate picture of someone’s native mental abilities. But it points out a truth no one wants to say: one of the reasons that it seems impossible to rehabilitate prisoners is that many aren’t intellectually capable of the type of insight and judgment needed to cut the shit.
Academics and journalists who know rehab say that individual psychotherapy is more “evidence-based” – meaning it actually works – to treat addiction. It makes perfect sense. Not only is the therapist is less likely to deal to patients, individual therapy doesn’t require the patient to understand the theory of analysis or cognitive behavioral therapy for it to work on her.
I can’t say any of this in here, one place where the most outrageous things are uttered. They’ll scream and me and tell me that I’m calling everyone stupid, which I’m not. I just think that drug habits aren’t a game, but we treat them like they are and our strategy to win this showdown is to hit ’em where they ain’t. The pervasive low self-esteem in here requires that everyone be built up just so they can function. You have to tell every inmate that she’s smart to boost her confidence in decision-making skills she might not have rather than dealing directly with the skill set she actually does have.
I think the reason why prisoners in a drug rehab program get high is that they don’t understand the program and they seek some way to stimulate their brains out of the boredom and fog, even though drugs are the last place they should look to do that.
THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM MAY 16 – 22, 2016
The look, the feel of Cotton. The idiot of our lives.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said we have an “under-incarceration” problem in the United States. He told the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, that:”For the vast majority of crimes, a perpetrator is never identified or arrested, let alone prosecuted, convicted and jailed.” Law enforcement arrests someone from only 19% of property crimes and 47% of violent crimes, according to Cotton. If half of people in state prisons (766,750 or half of 1,533,500 according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2013) are serving time for violent crimes and they constitute only 47% of violent perps, we need to add at least another 864,633 violent offenders to see Cotton’s vision come to fruition.
Donald Trump hired a convicted felon as one of his press people in Alaska. It was revealed last December that Trump once employed another “returning citizen” – this one mob-linked. He made a big deal on Friday that we wants to lock people up but it’s possible that Trump has the best record on folding people who did time back into society. Message to Hillary and Bernie: step it up. Hire some cons for your campaigns.
Did you know that we don’t know: 1) how many people have a criminal record; 2) how many people have served time in prison or jail; 3) how many children are on some type of supervision or probation; or 4) how many juvenile offenders graduate to become adult offenders, among other holes. Next to no idea. That’s how little we know about our criminal justice system according to a report from the Marshall Project.