A recent AP headline reports that the crime rate in Maine rose 3.6% in the last year. Maine, however, is widely considered to be one of the safest states in America. Maine boasts the lowest incarceration rate in the nation: 133 out of every 100,000 people in the state are incarcerated. (Compare this with the rate in Louisiana, which has the highest rate in the nation: 858 out of every 100,000.) The state also has the fourth lowest violent crime rate in the country, and eighth lowest property crime rate. In the most recent national recidivism study, Maine had only 33 “at risk” parolees, and none of them were re-arrested. So why did Maine, the A+ student of corrections policy see a crime increase last year?
Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris blames drug abuse, which has become a rampant problem in the state. The state recently underwent a massive prescription drug seizure operation, gathering a total of 12 tons of prescription medication. As a result, abusers of these medications turned to illicit means of procuring them.
If drug abuse is, as the commissioner says, the cause-in-fact of the crime spike, the problem is likely a lack of rehabilitation and treatment options for drug offenders. According to National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University Maine allocates a total of .19% of its state budget to prevention and treatment of drug abuse – less than half the national average of .37%.
Maine has reduced its incarceration rate for drug-related offenses, but that is only one prong of effective reform. Any state that does not address drug addiction, which is at the root of many crime problems, is squandering money—and lives.