“If our country wants to help pull people out of addiction and into productive, healthy, and hopeful lives, they should listen to what Eldon Vail, former secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections, proposed to me years ago: Commit, in the state legislature, to reducing the prison population, starting with long-term prisoners. Release people only into programs with a proven track record that are centered in evidence-based principles and include treatment, job training, education, and/or employment. The programs should handle all the casework; probation officers, he said, should be there for enforcement only. Dedicate half the savings from a reduced prison population to the programs supporting former prisoners on the outside.
Such an approach would save taxpayer dollars, Vail said, in the short and long term, and would enhance community safety. What’s more, when people who have long suffered from addiction leave prison and land in a well-knit safety net, they can build lives worth living for themselves, their families, and our communities”