In the past year, there have been several exposes on a handful of addiction work camps that struggling addicts and small-time petty criminals have been sentenced to complete to avoid jail time or prosecution. The work camps are typically Bible-based instead of a theory or evidence-based, with the philosophy that a person with a substance abuse disorder just needs to learn values like “hard work” and discipline. These values are the cornerstone of the program’s “theories” – just give people with an opioid use disorder something “better” to do with their time, or send them to jail.
Of course, these programs ignore guidelines for success outlined by Obama’s Addiction and Recovery Act. Even worse, sick or injured participants are told to buck up or get out. It’s clear that the welfare of the addicted is low on the list of goals for these programs. In fact, critics say these programs are merely veiled attempts at unpaid labor – which many would call “modern slavery” that aims at the most vulnerable.
What is an Addiction Work Camp?
Seemingly modeled after prison or the chain gangs in the South, judges sentence repeat offenders with drug problems to these camps to teach them “discipline.”
In Oklahoma, in fact, clients perform difficult and dangerous “work” in chicken factories, with no counseling for their addiction offered or substance abuse treatment services – aside from Bible study, according to a former program participant. The state chooses not to regulate addiction recovery programs, and the judges who sentence people to the program have been nonchalant about the fact that these addiction programs don’t provide the services that many clients desperately need.
The programs don’t address mental health, and even physical health takes a back seat to getting the work done. Some of the participants of these programs have also described working 60+ hours a week, too exhausted to make it to the optional, on-site AA meetings; the only type of support most of these facilities offer outside of prayer.
The Current Case: Food Stamp Fraud
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation into possible food stamp fraud at Fort Gibson’s Faith Based Therapeutic Community Corporation (FBTCC).
The “program,” which was not previously profiled by the news, allegedly took money “earned” by the participants during their time in the program. Participants in this specific FBTCC do hard work on highways and other roads to earn their keep at the unregulated Christian treatment facility.
According to investigators, FBTCC asked program participants to sign up for food stamps but controlled the cards when they came in the mail. Men who graduated the program later described to investors about the scam. The drug / hard labor program would then confiscate the food stamp cards. The men themselves described being fed expired food donations and restaurant leftovers. Several men told The Oklahoman they did not get lunch as they filled the role of an unpaid county road crew as part of the program.
According to NEWSOK, the DHS’s Office of Inspector General confirmed they are investigating the Southern Oklahoma Addiction Recovery (SOAR), in Ada, Oklahoma as well. The Oklahoma judicial system usually refers FBTCC and SOAR clients.