Ohio’s law enforcement authorities, health officials and community health care centers have come up with a novel way for tackling the menace of drug addiction. They have turned their attention to prisons and correctional centers, which were so far seen as institutions where offenders, including those caught for substance abuse offenses, face punitive measures. However, prisons in Ohio are now also serving as an instrument of change, especially for female prisoners. The move is offering a second lease of life to many women inmates. With the overall increase in prison populations, the number of female prisoners is also rising. According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC), nearly 3,000 women were languishing behind bars across the state in 2017. While a majority of the women had been locked up for drug trafficking, others landed there for crimes like burglary to support their addiction. Most of the crimes committed by the women inmates were minor, such as petty theft, prostitution, beating up a fellow student or worker, etc. for feeding off a drug habit, not requiring extensive punishment.
In a bid to prevent women offenders from gravitating toward crime due to drug addiction, the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) offers its inmates a comprehensive treatment program called Tapestry, an inpatient program that helps them stay clean and sober. Some other positive features of this program are: Allowing them to keep their children: ORW is one of the few correctional centers that allows women to keep their children with them. Since the involvement of family facilitates recovery from drug abuse, women who have their infants with them are less stressed out and hence less likely to do drugs. Addressing root causes: Unlike other inpatient treatment programs, this program does not end after 30 or 90 days, but continues for around 18 months. In order to participate in this treatment program, a woman has to be sober. However, they can be at any stage of the sentence. Usually, short-term programs do not address the underlying problems responsible for addiction and lead to relapses. Offering holistic care: The program not only helps women stay clean, but also addresses the underlying causes of addiction, such as traumatic experience related to rape, domestic violence, etc. This program plays a vital role in healing the mind, body and spirit of the women inmates. As a result, the root causes of drug addiction are effectively addressed. At the end, women are able to develop positive views about themselves, thereby enhancing their self-esteem. Connecting with others: The program ensures the development of positive feelings like empathy by connecting to schoolchildren with disabilities in South Africa via Skype once a week. Tapestry also helps inmates in finding an appropriate job by helping them to network with the right people. Once released from prison, this development program helps women inmates in staying clean for life. They’re able to lead a normal life through networking. They make friends who help them in transitioning from a prison life to a normal life. Recovery through empathy and positive approaches Such measures by Ohio, one of the states hit hard by opioid epidemic, are seen as drastic improvement from the draconian measures by most other states, where even the rudimentary medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is not available. Women addicted to narcotics are one of the most vulnerable sections of the American society. They have to cope not only with a complex mental health condition but also with the stigma attached to it. As a result, they have the lesser scope of recovery. As many women fear they would lose the custody of their children, they suffer in silence.