Cincinnati Jail Wants To Build Heroin Detox For Women In Prison

By Zachary Siegel 10/22/15

It's gotten to the point where city officials are "shocked" when a crime is not heroin related.

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Perhaps law enforcement is catching on that treating addiction rather than jailing those with addictions is the more effective and humane way to reduce recidivism.

County Sheriff Jim Neil of Hamilton County Cincinnati wants their local jail to build a $1.5 million heroin detox to help the thousands of women passing through to medically and therapeutically benefit from their incarceration.

Men and women in jail cannot be housed together so the heroin detox and treatment facility within the jail would serve only women.

Last year, nearly of half of the inmates who did time in Hamilton County were heroin addicts, and even more were repeat offenders. In fact, so many involved in the Cincinnati criminal justice system are involved one way or another with heroin use that one prosecutor is “shocked when something is not heroin related.”

Major Charmaine McGuffey told the Cincinnati Enquirer that, “We are sometimes the first step to recovery for addicts.” Mayor McGuffey runs the jail for the sheriff and sees reducing recidivism as high priority. “When they are in recovery, we want to be as responsible as we can be. We want to keep people from coming back.”

Services the jail would provide to help heroin users beyond merely medical detox would include peer counseling, nursing care, and treatment programs. Exactly what kind of treatment programs were not specified.

The current detox for the unfortunate heroin addict who finds herself inside of Hamilton County’s Justice Center is a crude mix of vitamins and over-the-counter pain killers, mainly ibuprofen.

Perhaps most importantly, the program would provide referrals to settings conducive to recovery for those exiting jail, so as to stay on track toward a smooth reentry into their respective communities.

Always at the fore of such humanitarian proposals, unfortunately, is the cost. Greg Hartmann, a Hamilton County commissioner, who created a heroin task force earlier this year, said he sees the need and agrees it’s a good idea if a way to pay for it is available.

“We’re not doing enough currently,” Hartmann told The Enquirer.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.