Missouri’s criminal justice system is at a critical point, researchers say. The Council of State Governments Justice Center says our state’s crowded prisons makes it vital that lawmakers vote to invest in behavioral health treatments that can help people kick substance abuse and become less likely to be arrested for drug crimes.
The Center says the legislature and governor have a clear choice: spend $189 on behavioral health or spend $485 million to build new prisons.
The Center’s director of research says the criminal justice system is overburdened because prisons essentially the only places in Missouri that address behavioral health issues. Andy Barbee said substance abuse treatments are few and far between outside the walls of prisons.
“It’s only being delivered there,” Barbee said of state correctional facilities. “There is so little of it in a community setting.”
Who suffers most for that lack of community treatment options? Barbee says it is women. Prisons can become a revolving door for women accused of low-level crimes that are often drug-related.
“So the state really is shooting itself in the foot,” he said about the lack of treatment. “But you see this particularly pronounced within that female population.”
The Center says that even worse, its research indicates that substance abuse treatment inside prisons is both expensive and ineffective. In fact, they say it’s often no better than no treatment at all.
Those arrested in Springfield on drug charges should understand that Missouri’s punishments are among the harshest in the nation.
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