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When I asked my supervisor if there was any data regarding the effectiveness of the Substance Abuse Treatment and Recidivism Reduction (STARR) program operated at the Criminal Justice Resource Center, I was met with a simple “no.”  I was slightly discouraged by this answer, however, I was not surprised by what followed.  He went on to explain that the CJRC simply does not have the funding nor the capacity to keep their website up to date, let alone follow up with every single individual who passes through the STARR program.

Due to the inability to receive adequate funding, the members of the STARR program have no idea whether their work is actually beneficial in terms of the inmates they treat remaining substance free post release.  The only way in which the effectiveness of the program is currently measured is by noting when an individual returns back to the Durham correctional facility after being released.  There is no system in place to follow up with those who do not return to the Durham system – meaning they could either remain clean, be incarcerated at another correctional facility, return to using, or be dead.  If the funding was available to carry out data collection and follow up interviews and surveys then the staff who works so desperately to improve the inmates’ lives would have a sense of what is working well and what needs to be changed, but the reality is they do not have the means to do so. Thus, they continue operating as best as they know how – but is this good enough?

So, why do we decide not to place funding towards organizations who are bettering members of our society?  What do we choose to prioritize instead?  And what would it take to get the community and the county administration on board with increasing this funding?

While researching larger jails with lengthier treatment programs, it is evident that those counties have more resources and funds that make such treatment possible.  In order for the funding to increase in non-profits such as the CJRC, we must make people care about the issues at hand and normalize the idea that by providing rehabilitation to a few, we improve the goodness of our society as a whole.  If we want to be better as a collective, we can no longer ignore the fact that members of our community are being neglected as they do not have the resources they need to heal and succeed pre-incarceration, during incarceration, and post incarceration.  Our society can not succeed to its full capacity until we stop isolating these incidents, stop blaming the individual suffering, and finally work together to take responsibility to solve these issues.  After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.