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South Carolina Honors College

Signed Up for Failure

by Elliott Braghirol  

Drug rehabilitation, prison rehabilitation, trauma rehabilitation, physical therapy, and prescriptions all grant second chances. There is a possibility for everyone to change, but the person must want something more. You must be desperate for a grasp on your life. Be the best version of yourself or settle for who everyone else has made you out to be? South Carolina fails people who are looking for a second chance with some of its rehabilitation facilities. Many family members and friends of addicts and convicted criminals, like my family, know firsthand that many of these people desperately want a second chance but are set up for failure by inadequate rehabilitation programs in our state’s criminal justice system. 

 My mother, a convicted criminal, drug addict, and alcoholic, saw hope when the judge sentenced her to a rehabilitation facility rather than jail when she was found guilty again of a misdemeanor drug offense. It quickly became apparent the state government rehabilitation center was not the chance for change she was hoping for. No profit, therefore no care and no treatment. She longed to escape and the only thing she learned from being there was the sad truth that it wasn’t any kind of worthwhile rehab facility, just another failure of the system.  

I want to think my mother wanted to get better or hoped to get better. It’s excruciatingly painful to be a witness to this lifestyle, waiting and praying for the person you love, the person you need to get better. I would sit for hours at my grandmother's window waiting for my mother to pull in the driveway, but she seldom did. Instead, she’d take another pill or another drink to distract herself from whatever was too much for her in life, even though the burden she was carrying was her own children and husband.  

My mother taught me very little, but she did teach me one thing: to forgive. To forgive the system that broke her and refused to help her. The system that sent her home even more helpless than before. The system that promised second chances that turned out to be curses. The system that played mind games with her and made her believe she was unfixable. The system that left her kids staring out a window for a mother who would never get the help she needed to come home. The system that eventually failed my mother to the point of no return. The system that took her from us once and came back to finish her. I ask myself if she would still be here if those facilities had really helped her. Instead she was isolated and given more pills. I knew those facilities were her last chance to come home and stay home. 

But she never turned down my grandmother’s driveway. These facilities were not the stable environment she so much needed. Not the second chance she needed. 

Medicare has more than 4,000 quality measures; addiction programs have zero, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported in 2022. Rehabilitation centers do not keep track of the outcomes of what they do. Once an addict or prisoner is released, they are sent back to their old environment where temptations often abound. 

Words are words and actions are actions. Words can be lies. Actions are a backup statement, an honorable truth. Without check-ups or proper care to help with improvement while incarcerated, many who are classified as rehabilitation inmates are nothing more than those in the general prison population. Oftentimes, the system does not put in that effort or care like these addicts and criminals desperately need. Medications, evaluations, check-ups, and therapy are all quality measures rarely met in our centers. 

Addiction is a health issue. It deserves the same attention and necessities as one. However, there’s a stigma about these prisoners and addicts; often they are judged as being immoral when really they are sick and trapped. Mentally and physically ill patients deserve a fair chance. Quality measures need to be met. If they were, overdoses and repeated crimes would be less likely. Families could be rebuilt and many people could be saved. 

Overdoses, reconvicted criminals, broken and hopeless souls. A system breaking the already broken. The last grasp of hope is taken just like that, leading to repetition of the past. We rely on what we know and sometimes the only thing we have to go back to is what failed us the first time. When the rehabilitation center that is supposed to completely change you and give you new possibilities falls through, you are left with the only thing you know – the things that helped us escape every other time. Set to fail before getting a fair chance. 

My mother deserved the chance to come home to her family who needed her. I deserved to have my mother. I deserved to have a safe and stable childhood. These systems are meant to save the addicted. But what they do not realize is the other lives they can save. 

Works Cited 

Lopez, German. “1,000 People Sent Me Their Addiction Treatment Stories. Here's What I Learned.” Vox, Vox, 30 Dec. 2019, 

“Celebrated Drug Rehab Center Spun out of Control, Reuters Finds.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 2 Sept. 2015, 

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