It costs the state of Connecticut approximately $179 per day to hold an individual with drug addiction in prison, according to the Court Support Services Division of the state’s Judicial Branch.
That’s more than double the average cost for all other incarcerated individuals in the state, according to the State Department of Corrections.
“For the opioid population, honestly 100 percent of people arrested were typically held until the disposition of their case. Then all these people took short sentences,” said CSSD’s Assistant Director of Adult Probation and Bail Services, Mike Hines. “Part of their addiction is the Department of Corrections.”
But that is starting to change.
Nearly 80 percent of participants in the state’s Treatment Prevention Pathways program – a new prison alternative offered to those arrested with drug or alcohol addiction — were given sentences that did not include incarceration, said Hines.
“Since 2015 when the program began, we have likely saved 85,412 bed days because of TPP,” Hines said.
At $179 per day, that’s more than $15 million in 5 years.
The intent of the program is to give people the option of treatment, rather than simply incarceration.
Participants entering the treatment program and demonstrating progress are more likely to receive reduced prison sentences or probation from judges.
“I talk to them when they’re in lockup and make a plan for what sort of services they need. It can mean residential treatment or partial hospitalization programs,” said Laura Parisi who facilitates the program in New London County through Southeastern Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence. “Usually these people would be held on bond in jail until their court date, just sitting in jail while their case is resolving. This helps them start the treatment process that much sooner. It’s helping the person and it’s saving money.”
Treatment Prevention Pathways began in New London County in 2017 with just a handful of participants after it was piloted in Waterbury and Torrington. At the end of 2019, there were 53 participants in the program.
“This program shows the judge that this person can succeed as long as they have help,” Parisi said. “It helps the judge look at them a little differently.”
Statewide, 70 percent of participants in the program are connected to a treatment program within 24 hours of their arrest, according to the state judicial branch. In addition, 70 percent of participants met court dates and avoided arrest during their time in the program.
According to both Hines and Parisi, this population can sometimes feel like they’re going around a revolving door. Arrested, released, arrested before they’re even brought to court for their first arrest. This program gives them an alternative option, a way to break out of the cycle.
Of the 170 people who have completed the New London program, 95 have not been rearrested — just over 50 percent, but still 95 people not returning to prison, or costing the state $179 each day.
“I have one guy who was a severe alcoholic, went to detox, rehab, sober housing, outpatient treatment and is now staying at a sober house and working. He is able to start sustaining some sort of recovery and break the arrest cycle. That’s what we want to see,” she said.
“It’s easy for this population to get lost out there with no one helping them,” Parisi said. “This gives them someone checking in, some support and a new start.”