Odyssey House Louisiana (OHL) is a nonprofit behavioral health care provider with an emphasis on addiction treatment. OHL was established in 1973 as a nonprofit residential substance abuse treatment facility with the mission of empowering people to conquer addiction. Today, Odyssey House offers a professional, structured and caring Therapeutic Community with comprehensive services and effective support systems that enable individuals to chart new lives and return to their communities as contributing members.
A United Way Partner Agency
Bigger isn’t always better. Corrections expert James Austin determined that the city "must make changes" to reduce the inmate population and reduce the need for a bigger jail. A large portion of current inmates consists of nonviolent felony offenders with crimes such as drug distribution and drug possession. Jails housing nonviolent drug offenders is not the most effective way to deal with the behaviors that lead to their criminality; rather, it is the least effective option and makes as much practical sense as building a bigger jail for a jail population that will continue to decline, a graphic that was reported by Mr. Austin.
The costs to house a nonviolent drug offender in prison are significantly higher than engaging that same offender in residential substance abuse treatment. Some studies place the cost-savings as $18,400 to $26,000 to keep a person in prison for a year and only $1,800 to $4,700 for a year of treatment. In addition to reducing the cost to society, treatment connects the offender to services and therapies that will modify their future behaviors and reduce the likelihood of them returning to a life of drugs and subsequent crime, a benefit that jail seldom offers.
Following Mr. Austin’s recommendations, the city should “make changes” to reduce the inmate population. Investing in substance abuse treatment and mandating addiction services for nonviolent drug offenders will not only reduce the inmate population and need for larger prison facilities, but will also contribute to making New Orleans a safer society with contributing, productive members.
Edward C. Carlson
Chief Executive Officer
Odyssey House Louisiana