Most inmates with opiate addictions at the Maine Correctional Center go through withdrawal while waiting for their court dates. Exceptions are sometimes made when the inmate is a pregnant woman.
Tanya Cahill, a 26-year old currently serving time for burglary and aggravated assault, recounted her own withdrawal experience. She could not stop moving and suffered sleepless nights. She had nothing
to help her cope with withdrawal symptoms except medications to keep her blood pressure from spiking. Amanda Woolford, manager of the women’s unit, reported that 79 out of 115 female prisoners had substance-abuse related offenses. Pregnant women would get medical examinations and opiate therapy is given if it in the best interest of the fetus.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 200,000 addicts enter the criminal justice system each year. However, only about 1% received opiate replacement therapy during their imprisonment. A nationwide survey conducted by NIDA showed that prison medical directors have a number of reasons why they do not offer therapy. Some doubt that offering suboxone or methadone would be beneficial. Others are concerned about the costs of the medications as well as keeping them secure.
The Maine Department of Corrections provides an 18-week substance abuse treatment program before inmates leave the facility. Woolford also stated that they offer Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and one-on-one treatment. On the other end, Cahill agreed that methadone or suboxone is not the solution to kicking an opiate habit. While she may have had relapses and still have cravings, it took her a little over a month to get sober after going cold turkey. Melissa Meymaris, Cahill’s case worker, said that just like everyone, Cahill will be screened to determine if she needs substance abuse treatment before being released.