Doing straight time

Carroll County: Drug-treatment unit in enlarged detention center will help address a serious problem.

October 12, 1999

MOST PEOPLE in jail have a drug addiction problem. While the offenses they are convicted of may not seem drug-related, it's often an underlying cause. So what better way to treat addictions than in the structured, regimented confinement of the jail?

Carroll County's new addition to its Detention Center addresses that need with a segregated 16-bed cellblock dedicated to treating inmate-addicts. The county health department will run the rehabilitation program, affording continuity to outside follow-up treatment. County jail inmates typically have less than 18-month sentences.

Years ago, the county jail had a drug treatment unit, but it fell victim to crowding. The $6 million, 100-bed addition, which will nearly double the center's official capacity, is expected to open by the end of this year.

The jail's treatment unit is no cure-all for substance-abuse offenders. Many will not take advantage of the program or be offered it. Others will relapse after getting out. Heroin addiction, which is particularly tough to kick, often takes repeat treatment. And heroin has been a prominent drug among abusers in Carroll County.

But with their captive audiences, jail treatment programs typically are more effective than community-based efforts. Montgomery and Washington counties are noted for successful jail programs.

The jail addition has been planned for more than a decade. Construction has been delayed, most recently by faulty boilers that must be fixed. The existing jail has been filled beyond capacity for years. The center, designed to hold 124 inmates, had 200 inmates at its peak last year. Recreation facilities have been converted to dorms to handle the overload.

The welcome addition will relieve that crowding. The drug treatment unit should help to reach inmates who recognize their addiction problems.

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