TRI-STATE (WFIE) - The last two months we have reported on potential expansion options due to overcrowding for two local county jails.
Although these are much needed projects, I wonder if we are just putting a band aid on a huge public health problem. According to several recent surveys that I have seen, a high percentage of our nation's prison population has exploded because of substance abuse.
Now this may not be a surprise to you but while we build bigger jails, we also need to be proactive and invest more in effective prevention at an early age.
The federal government estimates every $1 invested in effective prevention programs saves local and state governments an average of $18 in costs associated with substance abuse, including criminal justice. What could those savings be in our communities?
In Indiana, the Governor's commission to combat drug abuse says an organization started here in Evansville (Youth First) is so impactful that it should be duplicated around the state.
This year Youth First will place 54 social workers and prevention programs in 74 schools to boost the social and emotional well-being of young people. In doing so, they reduce substance abuse, suicide, violence, and other destructive behaviors. But there are still many more schools and communities without these prevention resources, and there is no doubt that they need it, too.
Let's invest as much as we can on the front end with our kids and hopefully reduce the need for more jail beds in the future.