Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

Second Department


First Advisor

Matthew Scherez




pharmacology; drug addiction; treament, therapy, incarceration, policy


In this thesis, I advocate for the use of pharmacological treatments for drug addicted prisoners in US prisons. I argue this point philosophically, ethically, and politically to show that pharmacological treatments are more effective than the current paradigm of sporadic therapeutic communities. I examine the issue first philosophically, examining the problem of subjective punishment. An individual who is forced to go through withdrawal upon incarceration suffers far more than an individual who does not. This proves to be a serious issue for the two major justifications of punishment: consequentialism and retributivism. Since these two justifications cannot account for subjectivity in a morally justifiable punishment, it is best to incorporate pharmacological treatments to remove a source of subjectivity. I then examine the ethical standards for the treatment of prisoners by looking at the international community’s guidelines for treatment. Groups such as the Red Cross and the WHO prohibit such treatment in their guidelines. Further, when turning to US law, it is equally questionable if such treatment is legally or ethically permissible. Politically, I examine public sentiment against drug abusers as well as how to meld current policy for pharmacological treatment into prisons. I find that the sentiment against abusers could be assuaged if it is shown to the public that pharmacological treatments are effective in returning addicts to productive members of society. While examining policy, I find that prisons lend themselves to residential treatment, and only minor policy changes would be needed. All these arguments fall in favor of pharmacological treatment.