Treatment vs. Incarceration
Choosing treatment for drug abuse prisoners instead of incarcerating them could prove to be beneficial to everyone.
Statistically almost one half of all state prisoners abuse drugs and many have an addiction problem. If they are not treated, most of these prisoners will repeat the drug abuse criminal justice cycle when they are released. Recent polls from the Pew Research Center showed that Americans would rather have an offender treated for drug abuse than be put in jail. Most Americans, according to the poll, still view drug abuse as a serious problem. What has changed is the people’s view of how the drug problem should be handled. Most people opted for rehabilitative treatment and only twenty-six percent believed that jail time was important. Most people also felt that the criminal justice system should do away with mandatory sentencing for drug crimes.
Perceptions have changed regarding drug abuse crimes and the shift leans toward treatment for offenders instead of punishment. Government officials are addressing the problem to decide what measures will best help the offenders and our communities. In 2014, The U.S. Sentencing Commission twice voted unanimously to reduce the federal drug guidelines in order to better control federal prison costs and population, ensure fair and just sentencing and also to protect public safety. These changes are supported by the Department of Justice, the Federal Public Defenders, the Judicial Conference, Democrat and Republican members of Congress, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and more. The drug guidelines will dramatically decrease prison costs. Federal prisons were thirty-two percent over capacity, high security federal prisons were fifty-two percent over capacity and costs were $6 billion over budget. The over-capacity prison population caused a dramatic increase in making federal prisons less safe for both the guards and the prisoners. High costs also meant less available funding for prosecutors, crime prevention programs, law enforcement, crime victim services and many other priorities.
The public view of drug abuse has shifted and is now seen as a disease involving brain biology and psychology. In 2011, the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Drug-dependent people should not be treated with discrimination; they should be treated by medical experts and counselors. Drug addiction is a disease, not a crime.” Scientific research has shown how drugs affect the brain and impair an individual’s ability to reason clearly. Substance abuse alters neural networks and most cases of relapse are the result of biology despite the addict’s desire to stop using drugs. Approximately thirty-six percent of prison inmates were influenced by drugs when they committed crimes. The U.S. Justice Department claims that two-thirds of drug offenders will return to jail within three years after their release. Only one-third out of eight hundred thousand prisoners in the criminal justice system received substance abuse treatment.
Treating substance abuse and addiction is critical to ensuring sobriety and a safe and healthy lifestyle. Research shows that nationwide, about seventy-five percent of severely addicted individuals voluntarily enter Drug Court. These individuals complete the program in about a year and remain sober and arrest-free. Drug Courts have been shown to reduce drug abuse, improve employment and family functioning. To date, these outcomes are not short-lived but are shown to be long lasting.
Not all the states in the U.S. have Drug Courts and the ones that do are only serving about ten percent of drug abuse defenders. This is a serious problem that must be changed. Drug Courts remain scarce because of limited resources and by those who still think that alcohol and drug addicts should be punished out of their dependence. This has been the crux of the problem all along and is slow in being resolved. Without the Drug Court, offenders are left to their own will and never go for one treatment. Under the intensive supervision of a judge that attitude changes. The power and authority of the Drug Court will keep the offenders engaged in the treatment program long enough to have a lasting affect. Treatment for drug abuse and addiction is the best option for drug crime offenders. It gives the addict a real chance to change, become sober and live a productive life.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the White Sands Treatment Center at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.