In 2005, the Bureau of Justice conducted a study following the recidivism rates of 404,638 prisoners in 30 states (Durose, Matthew R., Alexia D. Cooper, and Howard N. Snyder, Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010 (pdf, 31 pages), Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, April 2014, NCJ 244205.). The data indicated that 76.9 percent of drug offenders had been re-arrested within five years of their release from prison.
This percentage is astoundingly high! Why is it that this group, who knows the consequences of turning back to drugs, goes back to this destructive pattern? Have they been in treatment programs? Are they attending self-help groups? Are they following the 12 step program? Where are their sponsors?
A meta-analysis conducted by Bonata, Law, and Hanson (Bonata, Law, and Hanson; The Prediction of Crimininal and Violent Rescidivism Among Mentally Disordered Individuals: A Meta-analysis; Psychological Bulletin, 1998, Vol. 123, No. 2, pages 123-142.) may give some partial answers.
In their work reviewing 64 unique samples, the finding indicated that addressing psychological needs and personal distress did not necessarily lead to less criminal recidivism. For those of us in behavioral health professions, this is not the kind of wording we like to hear. What the study did find was that if treatment teams addressed, instead, criminogenic behaviors, the likelihood of returning back to a jail cell was markedly lower. So what are these criminogenic behaviors? They include such factors as pro-criminal attitudes, criminal associates, and an unstable lifestyle.
Unfortunately, many behavioral health specialists don’t address these issues on a consistent basis. Although relapse triggers, response prevention, and craving control are very important, if we don’t get the released prisoner into an environment free of crime, void of drugs, and distant from negative influences, there is a 75 percent chance of returning back to jail.
For those reading “Escape” that have a substance abuse history, my question to you is this: “How can we make sure that you are in the 25 percent category that never see another iron gated cell again? What is it that needs to change in your environment to insure you don’t get suckered into regretful past behaviors?”
Recently, I have received some skepticism about Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and if it is really necessary for successful treatment. My response was the following: SPECT is NOT Treatment. It is an assessment tool to understand, 6illustrating both over- and under-functioning of the brain. It is a guide. It is a useful tool that gives direction and understanding about how and why things need to change.
That being said, there is something very powerful when an individual sees that his or her brain is not working correctly. It is in that visual representation that people finally get it. They grasp it. The veil has been pulled. They finally want to change.
In the case of our substance abusers who particularly suffer from frontal lobe damage, the scans serve as a tool to help explain why they cannot go back to drug and crime infested environments. Their frontal lobes need time to rehabilitate, get stronger, become more adaptable in order to say “NO” in difficult situations. The recipient of hearing and seeing this information is less likely to feel they are being talked down. Instead, the recipient often starts to demand more, expect more, and push himself more to stay in environments that are conducive to mental health and better choices.
So in closing, I am going to encourage those with drug related crimes to strongly consider the importance of choosing healthy environments. Work with your support team to define, discover, and then set firm boundaries to live in the parameters of a healthy environment, whether you know or don’t know how well your frontal lobes are functioning. Also, a SPECT scan is one vehicle that can give scientific information on how well your frontal lobes are working.