Friday, June 22, 2012

Solving Rising Corrections Costs and Solving Increased Number of People With Dependencies

We need to get people with addictive problems treatment that help them overcome their addictions rather than spending large amounts of money imprisoning them in institutions where they receive inadequate treatment at overcoming their addiction,

In the 1950s, about 90% of the people institutionalized, meaning they were either in a mental institution, prison, or jail, were in a mental institution. Today, about 90% of the people institutionalized are in prison or jail. This means more people are at a higher cost institution and in an institution with a lower rate of helping troubled people improve their lives.

We as a society have moved from institutionalizing our most trouble people into mental health institutions and instead placing these into corrections facilities. This isn’t a conscious decision. Obviously most addictive people committed a crime in order to wind up in the corrections system. Yet the huge shift in where such troubled people have entered public facilities over the past few decades does indicate a definite societal shift in how people who fail to fit into our society are treated.

Getting troubled people help for their troubles, by definition helps them more than does putting them in a cell. By addressing what troubles them, it more likely means there will be a resolution that helps them overcome their troubles, or at least they will learn how to better cope and function with unresolvable or difficult-to-resolve troubles. This tends to improve the lives of troubled people. Further, people with less troubles tend to create fewer troubles for others. Others thus tend to be better off when they are not troubled by people with troubles. Thus, overall, more people are happier. Which could be a problem for me because happier people are less likely to fill a need to read humor writings such as mine and others, which will makes humor writers less happy and thus less likely to write more humor, so maybe it all balances out.

We, as a society, have chosen an alternative that doesn’t work as well in solving problems with addictions. Further it is incredibly more costly. Thus, we pay more for a less effective solution. One might suspect we are not very bright. Prisons, and to a lesser degree jails, are expensive. Don’t believe me: look at how much they cost to build and maintain. I don’t know you sense of cost, but to me, that’s a lot of money. There aren’t many, if any, discount prisons for sale in big box stores or dollar stores. I looked. I couldn’t even find a section where they might be sold.

Many troubled people have troubles with dependencies and drugs and/or alcohol. Their use of illegal drugs and sometimes alcohol (some alcohol use is illegal honest. I am sure the 14 year old with the unlicensed moonshine still might be breaking some law or at least a zoning ordinance). These lawbreakers sometimes go to prison for their illegal dependencies and for such purposes alone. A significant portion of our prison population consists of people arrested solely for using or having an illegal substance. In addition, the use of illegal substances can impair judgment (or so I have been told. Those who told me this assured me they themselves were not impaired when they told me this, so this seems to be a sober fact.) People with impaired thinking are most apt to take risks or just do plain dumb things that get them arrested. Numerous reality shows and police logs prove this point.

There is good news. Most of the people are known as “stupid young idiots” or SYI. SYI are immature. Now the good news. (Promised you there would be good news.) Most immature people become mature mature. When they become more mature they are far less likely to do stupid, immature things, especially things that will get them arrested, as shown as TV programs, or perhaps tracked by a family of bounty hunters. Thus, if we wait, trouble makes tend to outgrow their immaturities. Most people arrested are under age 30. Over age 30, people’s brains adjust to the realities and responsibilities of adulthood and they do less stupid illegal things and more stupid things within their own homes such as not cleaning garages or forgetting where children are supposed to be.

Not all people outgrow their immaturities, There is a small set of hardened criminals who never tend not to outgrow their criminal tendencies. They will likely become lifelong criminals. They are often identified by serial arrests or paying themselves huge bonuses within the companies they manage. This people will need to be dealt with and hopefully removed from causing more harm. In fact, there is a benefit to sooner identifying career hardened criminals, usually after their number of arrests is more than their age, especially if their age is over 30.  This are the type people who may best benefit from determinate penalties, such as the promise of specific periods of incarceration Unfortunately, many politicians have won good will by promising to put away such people into the criminal justice system that they forget these are a small group of who such penalties may be appropriate.

A general solution to these issues is we need to do a better job at identifying people with troubles and helping them with their problems. A few decades ago, we did a poor job at this We essentially warehoused the troubled. To the surprise of some experts back then, it was discovered that many commercial goods may be reasonably warehoused but people cannot be warehoused.

The conditions of many  mental health facilities used to be horrid. Facilities sometimes spent as little money as possible to provide residences, and little else was provided, for people with mental challenges. The goal was often to medicate the residents to keep them clam-not for their sake-but to make them easier to manage. Many facilities had conditions so deplorable that court actions forced their closures, leading to legal changes that led to the vast majority of people institutionalized in mental health facilities being removed from these institutions.

There are many individual stories of what happened afterwards. Some people were released from mental health institutions made good use of their freedoms and became productive members of society Some became professional comedians. Many wound up living in new places of squalor, some become homeless or frequently homeless, and may became incarcerated.

Incarceration is our mantra. There are politicians who wake up every morning (or afternoon, depending on how drinks lobbyists gave them last night), get into yoga positions, and calming chant to themselves something like “mandatory minimum sentences”, “build more prisons”, “if elected, I will fight crime”, and “Willie Horton” (which, I have learned, is not the name of a Canadian coffee company Apparently that’s Tim Horton, and that is someone totally different from Willie). This apparently results from reading public opinion surveys showing that people prefer less crime over more crime. Candidates pledging more crime do not tend to fare will in elections.

Troubled people, though, tend to do better being treated for their problems than being incarcerated. Prisons do provide them some benefits. They spend more time with other prisoners, swap recipes, experiences, and learn how to become better criminals. For all those high costs, we have created an institution for higher learning in improving criminal procedures. Imprisonment tends to make prisoners bitter. Prison TVs lack a good selection of cable networks and being interrupted before your program is over to tend off an assault from another prisoner becomes irksome. When troubled people are released from prison, they often are more bitter people who have learned how to become better criminals. This means incarceration was not necessarily the wisest of public investments. Some inmates are rehabilitated Some correctional institutions have rehabilitation programs that reach some people who do respond positively. Yet many prison wardens will admit upfront that prisons are for punishment, not for rehabilitation

Ironically, when we were a society that more often sent troubled people to mental health facilities, we then did not know how to treat them. Since then, advancements have been made in Psychology, Psychiatry, Therapy, Counseling, and TV shows with people named Phil and Drew. Treatment costs less than prisons and is more effective.

We are also getting better at identifying people with problems. School and child psychologists, child and school behavioral experts, teachers, and often cranky old people living next door are more often able to identify traits in children at around ten years of age, and sometimes even years sooner than that, and sometimes a few years afterwards (which does sort of make this sentence strange: up to age 10 and over age 10 doesn’t appear to really mean much linguistically) that warn that children my have troubles. These are often the children who are not fitting in socially, or exhibiting unusual behavior such as standing naked on their desks while waving knives, especially after already being told before such behavior is inappropriate, or some lesser tell tale sign. This does not mean that a 10 year old (or under age 10, or over age 10) will develop into a troubled adult. Yet it does indicate who may have problems at that age, and who continue having difficulties that could lead to such off behavior at becoming a talk radio show host. Nearly every child who caused serious trouble in school was identified earlier with troubles and in many cases the resources to help the child were lacking. Not every trouble child with cause a serious problem, but every troubled child that is helped should have an improved life. Children who are helped tend to do better academically, tend to become more productive, and avoid becoming troubled adults or stand up comics.

Unfortunately, we provide few resources on helping troubled children. In recent years, these programs have often been scaled back dramatically. Ironically, we would save money if we provided more services. There are long term benefits to children who become more productive and lead healthier and happier lives I am biased, but I like happy, productive people. Rude people tend to spread their miseries to others and work in retail establishments where they gave me changed for a $10 when I gave them a $20 and then insist I gave them a $10.

People with drug and/or alcohol dependencies are often identified when they are arrested as having these dependencies. For instance, some of identified when asked to walk a straight line and they respond by asking which of the two squiggly lines they see are the one they should traverse. Sometimes they are identified when asked to take a breathalyzer and they confused their mouth with some other body part.

Treating people, once identified or self-requested, for their drug and/or alcohol dependencies is a good idea. (What? You read this far and thought I’d change my mind? Well, a healthy skepticism is fine, but, seriously, trust me on this point.) Please be forewarned that this is often an involved effort.

Science has shown that people with drug and/or alcohol dependencies have altered brain structures. It often takes time for the brain to restructure to where the brain was, and where the body was, so it no longer craves the substance upon which it was formally dependent. Some people can do this with sheer will power, some do it with counseling, mentors, and help from others. Some people achieve this medications that alter the brain structure (which some studies show are often the most successful method). Yet, 95% of those who try to quit falter at some point (Alright, here you may have some healthy skepticism as here I am relying on statistics from others. The actual percent may be 94% or 96%. I haven’t independently verified this. It might even by 93% or 97%, but you should get the general idea that most will falter.) With a success rate in the neighborhood of 1 in 20 (although some state the odds generally improve over successive attempts), it should not surprise us that it may take several attempts at whatever method or methods are used until success is reached, The key is to not give up, even after faltering. If you know someone trying to quit a dependency, be there for them. They may not be the nicest person when the falter, but most express appreciation in the long run knowing that there were friends that were there for them.

If you are concerned about someone with a dependency, avoid ignoring the problem and letting a person continue to slide downwards on an addiction, thinking they’ll turn around when they “hit bottom”. One never knows how deep that bottom can be until the person decides that a non-dependent life is worth living Even if you fear you aren’t reaching a person, your support and care often does resonate. Many people who have overcome dependencies later state how, even while they turned their backs to those who tried to help, that the actions, words, and sentiments of those trying to help did get through and did ultimately help them realize what they were telling them.

Also, if you don’t know what hitting bottom is, I’ll tell you. The ultimate hitting bottom is death. If you try to help someone and they die, have no guilt. The actions of someone else is that person’s responsibility, not yours.

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