COVID-19 highlights the pitfalls of reliance on the carceral system as a response to addiction

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2021 Mar:122:108190. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2020.108190. Epub 2020 Nov 4.


People who are incarcerated are likely to meet criteria for at least one substance use disorder and need access to treatment. Access to such interventions was limited prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and has almost certainly been restricted further due to implementation of procedures intended to stop the spread of the virus. In this brief commentary, we discuss how COVID-19 has revealed the already tenuous access that people who are incarcerated have to behavioral health services, and the pitfalls of reliance on the U.S. carceral system as a response to addiction.

Keywords: Alcohol; COVID-19; Drugs; Jail; Mental health; Prison.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / economics
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Jails* / economics
  • Pandemics*
  • Prisoners
  • Prisons* / economics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / economics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*