Setting the Stage for Lessons of the Narcotic Farm, Part Five: Matrix House

In 1966 Congress passed the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act, a wholesale rethinking of the treatment of drug offenders. NARA rested on a forced marriage between the Bureau of Prisons, the Attorney General, and the Surgeon General. The law gave judges back discretion in sentencing. They could go for voluntary commitment, commitment in lieu of prosecution, or send offenders to aftercare.

To this day NARA remains a singular attempt to minimize criminal penalties for drug use at the federal level. For addicts, NARA was huge. Overnight incarcerated addicts became eligible for status and benefits as NARA clients. Once assessed, good rehab prospects were remanded to their hometown treatment facility. And if there was no treatment back where they came from, the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) would find an agency to provide it.

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