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NA Meetings in Prison

Narcotics Anonymous meetings can break down barriers behind bars, prisoners tell The Fix.

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Sharing forges bonds. Photo via

By Seth Ferranti

12/18/12

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Not everyone would think of a prison as a likely venue for a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, but—just like AA meetings—NA meetings are alive and well inside. "With all the drugs they got in here we need to go to NA meetings," one prisoner tells The Fix. "It's like heroin city in the feds." With overdoses, needle sharing and cheap heroin all around, addicts are in relapse central—but just like on the street, many of them badly want to quit. "I'm a drug addict," the prisoner says. "I can't help myself. I see or hear about heroin, I'm there. I don't care how much it costs, I'll go in debt. Dudes know I'll pay; I ain't no buster. But lately I have been going to NA meetings in the prison instead. It keeps me out of debt."

The meetings, which are hosted by prisons' psychology departments, are open to all inmates and provide a positive and drug-free environment for those trying to change. "A lot of the brothers that attend the meetings become close, due to the bonds we develop sharing, when otherwise—due to gang affiliations or the color of our skin—we would never have any type of contact in the yard," another prisoner tells us. "So it helps for us to relate with each other and recognize the problems we share." However, he continues, "a lot of prisoners have misconceptions about what NA and the 12 Steps are about. They don't want to identify their problems so they don't utilize the program or the meetings and the people that might help them." With drugs so abundant in prisons, recovering addicts need all the help they can get; relapse is only ever one step away. "It's bad in here," the second prisoner says. "I got to the meetings so I can try and stay off the dope. But than my dealer shows up at the meetings. It's crazy. But he's a recovering addict too."

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