Little Rock, AR

Addiction Leads to Incarceration: Should Prison Be The Only Option?

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

Little Rock area man sentenced to prison as part of a drug-trafficking crime

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Is there an alternative to prison for those addicted to drugs?

Should people with proven addictions be sent to prison, no questions asked? As the opiod crisis - and the prison population - continues to grow, it's a question that society needs to seriously consider.

Jamie Goff, 29, of North Little Rock, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking-related crimes and was sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison. However his role seems minor in relation to those who were considered the leaders, or "kingpins" in this massive drug trafficking enterprise.

Nearly 50 people have been accused of participating in three large drug-trafficking rings. Each of these have been said to have been dismantled by the police, though likely not without considerable harm to the community.

The drug of choice, and the one that is the cause of opiod addictions and, in some cases, death, is Fentanyl. The opiod is 80 times stronger than morphine and 40 times more powerful than heroin. In addition to this, the drug is often mixed in combination with other illicit drugs, adding to the danger of ingestion.

As part of a team that announced the charges related to the three drug trafficking rings, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Justin King, commented on the dire state of illicit drugs in Arkansas.

“People are making a lot of money off of—they’re preying on the citizens of Central Arkansas.”

"From vape cartridges that have fentanyl in them, marijuana, synthetic forms of marijuana. We’re seeing it mixed with methamphetamine. And what people need to understand is: whenever they’re getting anything, they don’t know what is in it.”

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Source: HHS.gov

And not knowing what's in the drugs that are about to be taken is both a fear and a reality for those who are addicted. A potentially fatal decision to ingest the drugs at hand is a reality, so one must assume that the addiction is so much stronger than the will to live.

For Jamie Goff, his arrest and indictment were seen as events that likely saved his life.

Goff actually thanked the prosecution as a result.

"I lived my life the past decade like I was stuck in a hole I'd never get out of. This saved my life," he explained. "It gave me the chance to be back home with my girlfriend, with my child, and to right the wrongs I've done for so many years."

As part of the full drug-trafficking organization, Goff's role was seen to be that of an addict who purchased drugs for their own use and that Goff had begun working to break his cycle of addiction even before he was indicted.

VIDEO: Dozens arrested in Central Arkansas Fentanyl Trafficking Raid

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opiod-involved overdoses in 2019. Further, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the "economic burden" of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year. This number includes the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Other findings related to opiods in the U.S.:

  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin

In other words, the opiod crisis appears to largely being as a reliance on drugs that ease chronic pain or related ailments.

The remedy for drug addiction: treatment, not prison?

For this reason, should the remedy for addiction not be prison, but treatment?

In an article for NBC News by Jake Arther, Outreach Coordinator for American Addiction Centers, he suggests a completely different tact for curing addicts and, by extension, decreasing the prison population.

"By offering treatment in lieu of incarceration, we’re giving these individuals a real chance to heal and lead productive lives instead of compounding their addiction when serving time," he says.

By offering treatment in lieu of incarceration, we’re giving these individuals a real chance to heal and lead productive lives instead of compounding their addiction when serving time.

Part of the problem with prisons for drug addicts is the fact that the use and procurement of illicit drugs in federal penitentiaries is is rampant. For those who are truly wishing to avoid any type of drug, prisons are not the places that they will be able to do so. In the case of Goffe, and others similarly charged, it could be said that his best course of action could be a program that treats his addiction so that future participation in illegal acts will not be necessary. With no drug habit to fuel, criminal behavior doesn't seem that appealing. Something to consider as the opioid crisis only continues to grow.

Read the full article here: Jail Can Make Drug Addiction Worse. Oregon Decriminalizing Hard Drugs Can Break the Cycle

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I write about Lifestyle content with a focus on Parenting, Society and Trends. I also talk about how things have changed on my podcast, "Parenting Then and Now."

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