We write to raise public awareness about the availability of resources to assist in reducing the issue of drug addiction. A lot of people in our community may have personal experience with this topic in their own lives, or that of a loved one. According to the Idaho Department of Corrections, 35% of those incarcerated were due to drug related offenses, and individuals with substance use charges are more likely to reoffend than those with violent or property damaging crimes. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Idaho incarcerates people at a higher rate, and has increased spending on corrections at a greater rate than most other states.

In discussion with local individuals involved in sentencing and treatment, we learned that treatment is more cost effective than imprisonment. For example, drug court programs cost an average of $2,000 per recipient over a one year period versus $25,000 per year, to incarcerate one person. Not only are drug treatment courts more cost effective, but they are also more successful in decreasing recidivism as compared to incarceration without treatment. Idaho’s average recidivism rate is around 77% following incarceration, while the recidivism rate for those who participate in drug treatment court programs is approximately half of that; this provides evidence for the success of these programs.

Given this information, we have a decision to make as taxpayers of this great state. Do we continue to recycle people who struggle with addiction through our prison system, or should we invest in alternative options that allow these people to become productive members of society?

Analissa Santillanes, Alison Rider and Trisha Johnson,

Idaho State University master of social work students