[EDITOR’S NOTEThe following is a Letter to the Editor, written and submitted by verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff.]

Councilmembers –

One of the comments I have repeatedly heard to defend incarcerating homeless people, assumed to all be substance abusers, is that they will go through withdrawal in prison and then be free of drugs or alcohol.

However, according to a report from the National Institutes of Health, incarceration must provide ‘“comprehensive substance use treatment to criminal offenders“ while incarcerated in order to reduce both drug use and crime after an inmate returns to the community and “Inadequate treatment while incarcerated also contributes to overdoses and deaths when inmates leave the system.”

A Pew Trust study reports:

“Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a combination of psychosocial therapy and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication – is the most effective intervention to treat opioid use disorder. Yet only 23 percent of publicly funded treatment programs report offering any FDA approved medications… research findings suggest that the most effective response to drug misuse is a combination of law enforcement to curtail trafficking and prevent the emergence of new markets; alternative sentencing to divert nonviolent drug offenders from costly imprisonment; treatment to reduce dependency and recidivism; and prevention efforts that can identify individuals at high risk for substance use disorders.”

The report also states “…only 5% of people with Opioid Use Disorder in jail and prison settings receive medication treatment…and when treatment is offered, it usually consists of only behavioral counseling and/or detoxification without follow-up treatment.”

NIH reports that “Imprisonment…actually leads to much higher risk of drug overdose upon release.” Also “Drug use continues to be penalized despite the fact that punishment does not ameliorate substance use disorders or related problems.”

And we all know that having an arrest record makes it more difficult for people to find work or housing, further reducing the possibility for them to succeed in becoming productive members of society.

Do you know whether or not SCORE or other facilities used for people arrested in Burien use MAT, offers counseling by professionals, and follow-up services after release from incarceration? Have you been provided with data showing what has happened to people released from incarceration in Burien, after withdrawal from drugs? If the answer is ‘no’ then the statement that incarceration is the answer to our problems with drug users and unhoused campers is not supportable, but is merely speculation.

We taxpayers expect our funds to be used in ways that are supported by research and are cost-effective. We expect to be provided with facts that support the decisions made to cope with problems related to drug use and crime. We can support your decisions if they are backed by evidence and data. I suggest a presentation at a council meeting, or perhaps a special meeting, to present your proposals and provide supporting documentation.

Pamela Jorgensen
Burien resident


EDITOR’S NOTEDo you have an opinion you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to scott@southkingmedia.com and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes). Read our updated Letter to the Editor policy here.

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

Join the Conversation


  1. You seem to imply that time spent away from drug use is a waste, when in fact it allows those addicted time to regain mental clarity and realize jail and addiction suck.

  2. My understanding is that SCORE does have MAT for people who are opiate dependent. But that is only one jail, I don’t know about other places in King County.

  3. Welcome to Burien aka Washington’s own District 13 ☠️. Thanks law enforcement and city leadership. Thanks!

  4. Detox is a great first step! The other thing most people don’t know about is that South King County has a very active 12 step community ready to help people who have detoxed live a different way of life. AA, NA, MA all sorts of Anonymous fellowships who exist to help the still suffering drunk and drug addict. For fun and for free.

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