Pubdate: Thu, 06 May 2004
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2004 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Scott Burke


A recent letter writer decried the methadone and harm-reduction
programs within our federal penitentiaries. While surely written with
good intentions, unfortunately the critisicm comes out of a
misunderstanding of drug addiction.

A 2001 report by the Correctional Service of Canada found that 44 per
cent of the crimes committed by offenders were associated with either
consumption of or addiction to a psychoactive substance (including
alcohol). Of the inmates who used illegal drugs on the day of their
offence, the largest proportion of crimes committed were break and
enter, theft, robbery and fraud. The inmates who consumed alcohol on
the day of their offence were far more likely to have committed
assault, murder, sexual assault, or driving under the influence.

The report suggests that a "possible explanation for the link between
criminal activity and the use of psychoactive substances is the onset
of addiction, and the amount of money required to feed the addiction.
Money neccessary to buy drugs or alcohol could be obtained by using
criminal means (economic-compulsive model)."

Because we prohibit these drugs, we create a black market that
artificially inflates their price, an insurmountable problem for
someone in the throes of addiction.

A person who enters the justice system with a substance abuse problem
will leave with the same problem if not properly treated and given the
necessary support and hope for their future, regardless of a "forced
detox" during the period of their incarceration.

These people tend to begin abusing drugs for a variety of
socio-economic and emotional reasons, many to mask the pain of sexual
abuse or to feel the love they never received as a child.

Others become addicted out of boredom and hopelessness, as we can't
help but see in recent news out of Cape Breton Island.

Are these people genetically predisposed to substance abuse and fraud?
Of course not. The problem is socio-economic.

It's time to discard the anachronistic Hollywood and American
nighttime TV stereotype of drug addicts and bring them back into the
society which we have virtually cast them out of. Our brothers and
sisters deserve far better. There, but for the grace of God, go you
and I.

Scott Burke, Halifax  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake