To the Editor:
Gov. David A. Paterson is wrong to propose cutting in-prison drug treatment programs out of the drug law reform bill to save money.
Prison drug treatment is cost-effective. For every dollar spent on prison substance abuse treatment, states save $2 to $6 on reduced recidivism and health care costs.
In New York, prison officials say that three out of four inmates need alcohol or drug treatment. But prison treatment programs are badly in need of reform.
Because programs are filled to capacity, prisoners wait months, even years, for treatment. At the same time, discipline for drug use is overly harsh and denies treatment to those who may need it the most.
Prisoners using drugs, some of whom may be struggling with addiction, lose years of "good time," delaying their release dates and pushing incarceration costs even higher.
Leaving the prisons out of drug law reform is bad public health and bad fiscal policy.
New York, March 18, 2009
The writer is a researcher in health and human rights at Human Rights Watch.