The Treatment Industrial Complex

in drugwar •  9 months ago

No, I didn't coin the expression, I first heard it used in an article written by Christopher Zoukis, "From Cages to the Community: Prison Profiteers and the Treatment Industrial Complex", that appeared in the March 2018 volume of Prison Legal News. The credit for identifying this emerging trend as the Treatment Industrial Complex (TIC)
goes to The American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots Leadership, and the Southern Center for Human Rights. Mr. Zoukis featured one of their reports: "COMMUNITY CAGES: Profitizing community corrections and alternatives to incarceration AUGUST 2016 (Part of the Treatment Industrial Complex Series)" in his article:


The reality of the TIC became clear to me during the April 27, 2018 meeting of the Milwaukee City-County Heroin, Opioid and Cocaine Task Force. I have been following the machinations of the Task Force for over a year and wrote about it in Is Freedom a Disease? and The Unaccountable DEA. All of the latest documents associated with the Task Force, including the Initial Plan 2018-2022 (See attachment #17),


which they presented at the meeting, are stored in the Legistar system File #171812 and older documents, including many submitted by me, are located with File #161554.

I'm barraging you with links, I know, but I just want to provide an adequate background for inquiring minds.

I have been trying to get the Task Force to include harm reduction and the impact of drug prohibition and the War On Drugs, in the formulation of their goals and strategies, but to no avail. Nevertheless, I sent the following letter today to: The Mayor, Tom Barret; all members of the Common Council; County Executive Chris Abele; all County Board supervisors; and the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Patricia McManus:

Now that the Task Force has published its Initial Plan 2018-2022 (See attachment #17 for the Initial Work Plan (As of 4-26-18) it is clear that they have no intention of collaborating with the community unless you agree with their narrow prescription for a “solution” to the problem. And most disturbingly, the goals and approaches proposed by the Task Force will not address the root causes of the problem: it’s as if a community that was subject to flooding every year responded with a plan that increased the availability of sand bags and emergency shelters -- rather than protect the watersheds upstream. The Initial Plan 2018-2022 is a dream come true for the lobbyist of the “Treatment Industrial Complex”. The Task Force is acting like a doctor who prescribes medicine without making a proper diagnosis or giving a realistic prognosis.

I am asking you to reject the Initial Plan 2018-2022 and instruct the Task Force to go back to the drawing board. The Public Health and Safety of this community demands a comprehensive approach to the problem of drug overdoses which includes the direct participation and involvement of the Police and Sheriff’s departments to address the racial disparities in who is being prosecuted for drug offenses. The Task Force is disingenuously ignoring the criminalization of an individual’s choice to consume a substance and then hypocritically professing to want to help the person by erroneously diagnosing them with a disease.

Imagine yourself growing up in a home where one or both of your parents are, or have been, incarcerated for a drug offense. Driven by loneliness, desperation, poverty and social disconnection, you self-medicate with a controlled substance. You are caught by the police, charged with a felony, and when you get to the drug court, you find out that you really have a disease. The Initial Plan 2018-2022 is a green light for investors to make long term commitments to building the “treatment industrial complex” because they are literally being guaranteed an increasing supply of “customers”.

I am asking you to stop kicking the can down the road by ignoring the root causes of the overdose problem i.e., the harms created by drug prohibition and the war on drugs ( “The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition” ) and take this opportunity to produce a comprehensive plan to address the problem -- as opposed to merely providing more sand bags and emergency shelters.

I'm not suffering under any delusions that the powers that be will sit up and take notice: I know better. So, is it a waste of time to pay attention to what local politicians are doing and connect it to broader trends? Is it a waste of time to try to get politicians to do the right thing? I hope not, and I appeal to the Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant: “I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.”

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I thought it refers to the medical industrial complex, because it is a better description of it than it is of the DOCs, or does it have a different name in the Federal level?
A better name for what you meant would be "The rehabilitation industrial complex"

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You got a 27.70% upvote from @luckyvotes courtesy of @stimialiti!


The main point I see is that government is using coercion to attempt to control what people possess and consume. This is doomed to failure as people will and have always assumed they own their own bodies and they will self-medicate as they see fit no matter what the government says. Ok, maybe some people will be cowed by threats or brainwashed by propaganda to accept government control of their bodies, but a significant proportion will not acquiesce.

I think Lysander Spooner summed it up best in his essay Vices Are Not Crimes.


You got a 11.63% upvote from @sleeplesswhale courtesy of @stimialiti!


Filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who produced the 2016 documentary Treatment Industrial Complex, said: "Instead of alternatives to incarceration, it's alternative forms of incarceration."

The medical community, and society as a whole, have allowed their biases in regards to addiction to twist their reasoning to the point that it's barely recognizable as logic anymore. First, we tell people that they are suffering from a disease, and that they must go to "treatment" to get better. Then, we lock them away from their family for 30-90 days, and tell them that the only way they can "get better" is by admitting their faults, and turning their life over to a "higher power". Then, when the person leaves treatment and almost inevitably "relapses" by returning to chemical use, instead of admitting that the cure is ineffective we instead blame the patient, basically saying that they didn't pray hard enough for God to cure them. Anyone proposing such a scheme to treat depression, schizophrenia, cancer, or any other disease - mental or physical in nature - would rightly be laughed out of the room; yet somehow this passes as the "cutting edge" in the treatment of chemical dependency.

I'm not trying to knock 12-step programs; I understand there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been able to successfully use these programs to make substantial changes for the better. But there are millions of people for which this approach fails, and I see the medical communities wholehearted endorsement of this as a legitimate medical intervention nothing short of a cop-out for their failure to develop an effective science-based solution to the issue.


Thanks for your feedback.

Whether that "higher power" is religion or government, both involve 'turning your life over' to their authority and, in the later case, their coercion.

I don't know how many of the religiously based drug treatment programs are publicly funded -- so long as they are privately funded and participation is voluntary, I say carry on.

I think Lysander Spooner made the best case for personal responsibility and freedom in his essay Vices Are Not Crimes