Clinton, aides to see prison drug program in Upper Marlboro

February 09, 1994|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton is scheduled to visit the Prince George's County Correctional Center in Upper Marlboro today, where he will use incarcerated drug users to illustrate the link between America's crime rate and its addiction rate.

Appearing with Vice President Al Gore, Attorney General Janet Reno, national drug policy coordinator Lee P. Brown and 28 inmates involved in a drug treatment program, Mr. Clinton will dramatize the increases in his budget for drug treatment efforts, White House officials said.

Despite cuts in other areas, administration officials said the president's budget calls for a 9 percent increase over last year. Almost all of the money will fund more drug treatment and drug education efforts. Funds to prevent illegal drugs from entering the United States are cut 7 percent in Mr. Clinton's proposed budget.

One major initiative in the president's budget calls for $310 million in grants from Health and Human Services to treat some 74,000 "hard-core" drug users. Another 64,000 addicts who are behind bars, on probation, or in criminal justice diversion programs would receive help with money the administration has earmarked in anticipation of the passage of a major anti-crime bill pending in Congress.

Recent studies suggest that highly motivated convicts are particularly well-suited to drug treatment programs for several reasons. Mainly, it is more difficult for them to backslide by skipping appointments, obtaining drugs, or denying that their drug use has exacted a heavy toll in their lives.

Maryland and Prince George's County officials said the president will be joined at the ceremony by participants in a program called "The Awakening," which is open to male inmates who are convicted of alcohol or drug-related offenses, those referred by a sentencing judge or inmates who have referred themselves.

They are given therapeutic instruction for a 90-day "residential" period; after that three-month program ends, they are supervised and counseled for another year.

One irony of Mr. Clinton's visit to Upper Marlboro today is that despite his proposed increases, if the president's budget is adopted, The Awakening program might be in jeopardy.

According to Lawrence J. Strickler, executive assistant for law enforcement at the Governor's Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission, 75 percent of the program is currently being funded by the federal Formula Grant Program, which the president targeted for elimination.

Mr. Stickler conceded yesterday that The Awakening program might be funded by other Justice Department drug programs or by the new grant money earmarked for HHS.

"They may -- or they may not," he said. "We don't know what they will decide."

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