Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment within the Criminal Justice System: An Overview of the Issues

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Many nurses, especially those in addictions, work directly in the prison system and or relate to inmates before or after institutionalization for criminal activity. This connection led to the theme of the 2009 Annual Education Conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, entitled “Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment: Working with the Criminal Justice Systems.” The conference was partially funded through an award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (grant # SP015963) and focused on identifying the special risk factors for and barriers to the treatment of addictions for those who enter the criminal justice system. The conference, presented in collaboration with the American Association of Nurse Attorneys (AANA) highlighted the tremendous need for more access to addictions and mental health providers in the criminal justice system. Papers presented at that conference confirmed that nurses can make a real difference in the health of inmates, especially those of us engaged in addictions and mental health practices, and inspired this specially focused edition of the Journal of Addictions Nursing. The purpose of this editorial is to provide an overview of the addictions problems affecting individuals under supervision in the criminal justice system, barriers to treatment within this system, and the cost-benefits of evidence based treatment.

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