Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,356,721)
Criminal behavior is often linked to substance abuse disorder. Those who use illicit drugs may be prosecuted for possessing, using, manufacturing or distributing drugs and drug paraphernalia. Some may commit crimes to obtain drugs or money to buy drugs, and many are under the influence of drugs when they commit these crimes. This problem in Ohio is acutely reflected in the both the enforcement activities of the state’s multi-jurisdictional task forces and the high number of prison commitments for drug offenders.
Drug-related crimes represent the most common type of offense for which individuals are committed to prison. As of July 2021, there were 42,963 inmates in Ohio’s prisons. Over 12,000 new inmates were committed to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) during the 2021 fiscal year. Of these commitments, 26 percent were for a drug offense—38 percent of these individuals were women and 24 percent were men. These statistics belie the more serious underlying behavioral health issues of many incarcerated individuals. Substance use, in combination with other mental health disorders, is widespread among criminal justice populations, for drug offenses and non-drug offenses alike. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that while exact rates of inmates with substance use disorders is difficult to measure, research suggests an estimated 65 percent of the US prison population has an active substance use disorder, and another 20 percent did not meet the criteria for an SUD, but were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their crime.
The impact of the COVID-19 on issues of substance use in the incarcerated population cannot be overstated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 2020, 13 percent of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-10. The pandemic further exacerbated issues of substance use in the incarcerated population. A policy brief by the Mental Health Commission of Canada noted that the heightened COVID-19 risk, combined with prison conditions, adversely impacted the mental health and substance use of incarcerated populations. Access to mental health and substance use treatment services in facilities was extremely curtailed during the peak COVID-19 period. And for those individuals who were suddenly and unexpectedly released from correctional facilities in an effort to reduce overcrowding, there was generally an inadequacy of discharge planning, continuity of care, and transition into the community.