Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Burl Cain is right to turn the shuttered Walnut Grove state prison into a drug rehab center operated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC).
One reason for Mississippi’s sky high incarceration rate, one of the highest in the world, is our state’s misguided attempts to treat drug addiction with prison incarceration. Drug addicts are mentally ill and require special treatment. Their addiction precludes the risk/reward simplicity of a rational criminal mind.
Even so, there are times when some form of coercion is necessary as part of the drug rehab process. Creating coercive drug rehab centers run by MDOC is a good compromise between the blunt hammer of basic incarceration and the overly voluntary aspect of private rehab. It’s drug rehab with a stick and it could be an effective tool for drug addicts who have failed to respond to less coercive programs.
Cain also pointed out an irony. Lower income drug addicts can’t afford private rehab. MDOC drug rehab may be the only way they can get treatment. It won’t be a significant expense to MDOC because simple incarceration is still costly for the state. In other words, since taxpayers are already going to be paying the hefty cost of incarceration, why not go ahead and make a legitimate attempt at rehab?
Another Cain initiative we like is a high-security unit at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility where gang members can be isolated. This is long overdue. Until the MDCO breaks the lockhold gangs currently have over our prison system, our citizens will continue to be plagued by violent crime and an expensively high incarceration rate.
Wyatt Emmerich is the editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper in Jackson. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.