Kentucky susbtance abuse program: Should the program be rehabilitated?

Crow, Mirado



March 8, 2018 Kentucky Substance Abuse Program: Should the Program be Rehabilitated? By: Mirado Crow The Substance Abuse Program is one of the many approved Drug Treatment programs sanctioned by KRS 197.045 and other various laws within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. However, many of the internal rules and regulations within the program itself are toxic to the recovering addict. Though I am not an addict myself, I worked within the Substance Abuse Program building at the institution I was housed, and witness first-hand, the abuses carried out and permitted by facilitators of the program. I am very sure that these same abuses are perpetrated throughout all of the other facilities where SAP is offered. The Substance Abuse Program is meant to rehabilitate the participant from the addiction they suffer from, and to provide life changing skills they need to maintain their sobriety. Instead, prisoners are given authority over other prisoners throughout the program, while the Social Service Clinicians — who are hired and trained in rehabilitation — delegate their responsibilities to prisoners to execute. This fosters the ability for a prisoner to retaliate against another prisoner by causing their termination from the program, or otherwise, preventing their fellow prisoner from properly recovering from an addiction they truly suffer from. This ability has been banned by virtually all prisons in the United States for obvious reasons however; the Substance Abuse Program does not see it that way. In their eyes, prisoners should have the duty to hold other prisoners accountable — and as a result, they may receive rewards such as incentive points they can use to purchase various canteen items. Essentially, the system is bribing prisoners to become informants. What does the program gain from this “Accountability” model? Prisoners who participate in the Substance Abuse Program are there because they have a problem they need to correct; their addiction. They are required to sign a contract, and many Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 other paperwork, which states they must participate in accountability; yet such contract mentions nothing regarding holding others accountable — and for a reason. When a prisoner holds themself accountable too many times, they are punished for what’s called, having a “Blind Eye”. It has been argued that no prisoner has the right to hold another prisoner accountable; this comes from the policies and procedures that no prisoner is to have authority over another prisoner. Such authority leads to extortion. According to what they call, the “Big Book”, an excerpt states that you have no right to tell anyone to correct him or herself when you have the same problem within you. This message is blatantly ignored by staff within the program, and it creates an extremely hostile environment for those attempting to recover successfully. Even though it is a key to recovery from addiction, trusted individuals with impunity, abuse the accountability system. I have spoken with many other prisoners regarding this program, and the fear they have, is appalling. Nobody should ever be afraid to participate in this program. The main fear shared regarding the program, is that prisoners designated as “Mentors” are solely focused on issuing accountability slips, and ignoring other duties; such as mentoring. Mentors are also given authority over other prisoners, more so than the normal prisoner. Such authority over another prisoner has led to numerous fellow prisoners being labeled as “Rats”, which will follow them for the rest of their lives within the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Another fear shared by participants of the Substance Abuse Program that I have been spoken to about is that prisoners — other addicts — are facilitating recovery classes to fellow prisoners. How can a suffering addict teach anyone how to successfully recover? It’s the same as asking a pauper how to become debt free and financially independent. These same “facilitators” are those who would receive parole, and turn up either: dead from a drug overdose, or returned to Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 prison for yet another drug charge, or failed drug test. Obviously the methods they are teaching don’t work. Such relaxation of the standards for what’s meant to be a respectable program has prisoners in fear of never being able to go home. What message does this send to the community? Most would reply, ‘‘Don’t go to prison.” however, many people who are against abortion will tell a pregnant woman entering an abortion clinic that if she didn’t want to get pregnant, then don’t have sex. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Even though abortion and incarceration are two completely separate things, the concept remains the same. Pointing the finger and saying, “Don’t...” is neither helpful, nor productive. The reality is that, as long as there are people on this planet then there’s going to be those who go to prison. Prisoners are people too. They are not stripped of their humanity once they are incarcerated. The correctional system was meant for rehabilitation of offenders. The very meaning of rehabilitate comes from the word “rehabiZitare”, meaning, “. . .to restore to a former capacity”; how is instilling fear a form of rehabilitation? The very system of the Substance Abuse Program is a gross violation of the 8”‘ amendment to the United States Constitution, because it tortures the psyche; and is in serious need of rehabilitation itself. How do we fix this problem? The first steps to fixing this problem is by taking the accountability system out of the hands of prisoners and give it to who it belongs — prison staff. This will enable each prisoner to focus on what they need to do in order to successfully recover — instead of worrying about what someone else is doing. How is prisoner A holding prisoner B accountable helping prisoner A’s sobriety? It doesn’t. Instead of tackling the symptom of substance abuse, focus on the underlying cause of addiction. An example of this method is by mandating, as part of the program, each prisoner to Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 regularly see the prison psychologist; or hire a full time psychologist specifically for participants of the program. This will significantly enable the prisoner the ability to understand what is actually causing their addiction, and will allow them to address the issue. In addition, require all participants who don’t have a high school diploma or GED to obtain a GED. Education opens more opportunities in the workplace than treatment alone. The Substance Abuse Program allows suffering addicts to facilitate recovery classes; instead of allowing prisoners to facilitate classes, mandate the Social Services Clinicians to teach the class, and to allow prisoners actively participate in exercises for each lesson. This is from not only a moral standpoint, but a professional one too. When I was a Licensed Massage Therapist, I would not delegate any of my duties for treatment upon a layperson. Such therapy, like substance abuse treatment, consists of individualized treatment plans — something an unlicensed professional is completely unqualified to do, especially a suffering addict. A single specific method of treatment will not work for everyone, so individualizing each prisoner’s treatment — or at least grouping prisoners with similar situations together for similar treatment will enable a successful recovery. This is not to be confused with segregation. I am not asking for segregation, but a better classification system of individualized treatment needs, and the implementation of such classification within the program to facilitate a more effective recovery. As for the incentive program that is currently going on within the program. Instead of limiting this incentive program to only a select few, create classes of incentives. This will create different levels of the incentive program so that it is not taking away from those who hold leadership roles within the program. Many people will state that it is the reward behind a program that is the driving force of their success within it; whether it be their recovery, or the feeling that they had accomplished something. Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 One of the main things that must change within the Substance Abuse Program is how easy prisoners get terminated from the program. Violations of Cardinal or Institutional Rules are cause for an automatic termination from the program. However, I have dealt with numerous termination appeals for lack of progress in the program. If a student is not interested in a particular subject, the fault does lies on the teacher for their lack of ability to interest the student. Treatment programs are not easy to develop for suffering addicts, and staff must not terminate addicts from a treatment program for suffering from an addiction. Instead of terminating a suffering addict due to “lack of program progression,” program staff should place them on an intensive treatment plan. This would mean (for example): (1) more classes, (2) more homework assignments, and (3) more appointments with a licensed therapist. Nobody thinks about this very important ingredient in any kind of therapy. It’s something we all depend on, and can’t live very long without. The type of food we eat. In the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Aramark feeds prisoners. Though the Department of Corrections creates the menu, Aramark provides the food. It is not a new issue; Aramark does not feed prisoners very well. Instead of a nutritional based diet, officials feed prisoners a calorie—based diet. It is cheaper. The menus that are made available only look good, but when receiving a tray of what looks and smells like rotting meat, you will definitely change your mind. Indigent prisoners must either, eat the tray, or purchase their meal from the canteen; which gets very expensive. Yet, how do we fix this issue? The contract with all food providers must change upon expiration. Officials in charge of such contracts must include severer sanctions on corporations that intend on profiting from incarceration. These corporations feed prisoners what we would not dare feed to our pets; what is illegal to feed the public. I once saw a label on one of the food boxes that stated “For Zoo and Institutional Use Only. Not for Human Consumption”. The Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 majority of the modern day prison diet composes of sugars, and starchy foods such as potatoes, noodles, and rice. Even the substitute meals are composed of this. There is no variety of fruits or vegetables, and the vegetables served are ruined by overcooking. There is such a thing as destroying the nutritional value of a food due to overcooking. There is no telling on how many toxins a suffering drug addict has in their system. Many substances are stored in subcutaneous tissues all around the body; such as THC, PCP, and yes, Heroin. Eating what Aramark and other similar food providers are feeding, not only adds more toxins to the body, but severely lowers mental and physical health. It has already been proven that drug addiction is linked to mental health. To successfully detoxify, increase neuroplasticity, and physical health, suffering addicts (and other prisoners) must be placed on a Nutritional Based diet. This means, plenty of fruits and vegetables of different colors — mainly all seven colors of the rainbow, plenty of real meats with omega3 fatty acids, and vitamin rich foods. By detoxifying the system of damaging substances that perpetuates addiction, shrinks our brain and leads to many other prison related health problems, prisoners are able to focus more on their responsibilities, and will rehabilitate more successful. Another way of ridding the body of toxins —— and facilitating recovery — is relaxation, meditation, and yoga. This may seem esoteric, or even too eastern for those people who are used to resorting to pharmaceuticals for relief. Eastern medicine stood the test of time, and is still with us today. Massage Therapy, for example, originated in Asia over 5,000 years ago, and was only made available to royalty. This is because it was believed to increase longevity, and bring harmony to the body’s yin and yang. Today, Massage Therapy is shown to assist in the healing process of many different health issues. Through manipulation of soft tissues, Licensed Massage Therapists increase blood circulation, force lymph fluid to circulate faster, and move toxins out Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 of fascia, subcutaneous, and muscular tissue. Though Massage Therapy should not be made available to the prison population, for obvious reasons, Yoga is less invasive, and a better alternative. As said by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, from Boston University School of Medicine, and pioneer researcher in the field of trauma, “The memory of trauma is imprinted on the human organism. I don’t think you can overcome it unless you learn to have a friendly relationship with your body.” Dr. Kolk is right. The prison system is a breeding ground for many different types of stressors. Mental, emotional, and physical stressors are amongst the major types. Incarceration can worsen the experiences of anxiety, depression, agitation, grief, loneliness, fear, and distrust that a person may already be experiencing. Yoga — when implemented correctly — promotes Mindful Awareness, which is not only important for supporting behavioral rehabilitation, it is critical for physical and emotional well-being. A healthy, emotionally stable individual is significantly less likely to return to substance abuse. In fact, yoga has been shown to improve the following in prisoners: (1) reduction of stress; (2) increase ability to focus on the positive, instead of the negative; (3) addiction recovery; (4) increase in mental clarity; (5) pain relief; (6) mental and emotional resilience to outside stressors (7) deeper sleep; and (8) self-awareness, and acceptance. Setting no less than 90 minutes aside each day at the beginning of the day for yoga, would make a significant change in a prisoner’s acceptance to the rest of treatment. Research from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Harvard University, and other prestigious institutes have shown that mindful awareness is a viable means of reducing stress, improving attention, boosting the immune system and promote a general sense of Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 psychological and physical well-being. This research is not new; yet, why have many of our prisons not explored this powerful recovery tool? The Mentor Program is available to prisoners who recently graduated from the Substance Abuse Program. Though the admission requirements to the program consist of an interview, and a written essay — among other things, it should not be the basis of determining whether someone should be a Mentor. As I’ve stated previously, Mentors are more focused on issuing accountability slips, instead of mentoring. This should never be the job of any mentor of the program. Instead, a good mentor is someone who invests their time and energy into their peer’s personal success, like a coach, or tutor, in order for the suffering addict to be more receptive of their treatment and advance their recovery. Assisting their peer to succeed must be the top priority of mentors in the program. Instead of arbitrarily selecting Mentors, prisoners who wish to hold this high leadership role must be selected by an election of their peers. To qualify for this election, prospective candidates must have shown a great deal of personal growth, have developed proper communication skills, and hold interpersonal skills. Yes, they must have the ability to work well with others, and put their own personal agendas aside. The biggest thing that needs to change is the means by which participants enter the program. The majority of prisoners, who enter the Substance Abuse Program are mandated to sign up by the Parole Board. The mandate comes from the ever-so-popular “Parole Upon Completion of SAP”. If they don’t sign up for the program, they are punished by not being granted their meritorious good time sentence credit. If the Classification Committee recommends the prisoner to the program, they receive the same punishment. Forcing a suffering addict to complete the Substance Abuse Program on threat of not going home on parole is abuse. You would not force your child to hug someone they do not want to hug...would you? The same Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 philosophy is true with suffering addicts. If they are not ready to take the steps to address their addiction, they must not force them to address it. Forcing an addict to complete the program so they can go home, only breed contempt for the program, and the addict does not recover. Instead, they will just go with the flow in order to go home. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Fake it to make it.”? The Parole Board and Program Administrators of the Substance Abuse Program must think about this before holding Parole over a prisoner’s head pending completion of the program. If the current pattern continues, they are only sending suffering addicts into the community with no real tools for success, and possible death by a drug overdose. The intentions behind the Substance Abuse Program were very noble when it started, but now, the use and execution of it is contrary to its goals. The massive amounts of money funneled into the prison system to treat the drug abuse epidemic, bred greed among many of our officials. The amounts of taxpayer money that should be used for Education, Retirement, Healthcare, and Welfare are being allocated for a program that does not work in its current structure. The majority of recidivists in the Kentucky Prison System, are non—violent drug offenders; drug offenders who have already completed the Substance Abuse Program. Finally, many program staff intentionally terminate participants so more grant money is funneled into the system to treat the drug epidemic. Prisoners are people, not just a number to use for grant money. This kind of power demonstrates omnipotence over the lives and liberty of free men; and violates Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution. Although, as prisoners are not free per se, they do live in a free society, which is what Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution is talking about. How do we stop this? Taking jobs is not an option in this type of economy. However, we must hold these abusers accountable for their actions; otherwise, such abuses will continue to perpetrate with impunity. Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. March 8, 2018 Once the Substance Abuse Program changes for the better, they will see a better turnout of recovery and less recidivistic behavior of their graduates. Remember, Rehabilitate comes from the Word rehabz'lz'tare,_ meaning, “to restore to former capacity”; in simpler words, “to restore to former dignity”. Programs designed to help suffering addicts recover, must not sacrifice its dignity, or integrity when faced with challenges. It must have the courage to persevere through adversity, and honor the basic tenets of recovery. The program must’to be rehabilitated. Copyright © 2018 by Mirado Crow. All Rights Reserved. 10

Author: Crow, Mirado

Author Location: Kentucky

Date: March 27, 2018

Genre: Essay

Extent: 10 pages

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