Should nonviolent addicted inmates be released, or is the current situation working? Are drug courts the best way to get people the treatment needed to be functional in society, or is jail the best way to deal with those who find themselves in court due to drug-related activities? It’s an argument that rages on in various forums across the country.
Many argue that the system is overloaded and that the government is unable to afford the care of the many people who are currently incarcerated. Gyms are filled with rows of bunk beds, and health care is minimal at best. For inmates whose primary “offense” is possession of illegal drugs or nonviolent behaviors in service of addiction or due to being under the influence, there is little assistance in terms of rehabilitation and help to break free from drug dependence so that they can live a more stable life in sobriety when they are released. The natural solution to both problems seems to be to eliminate incarceration as a penalty for these “crimes” and instead recognize addiction and addiction-related behavior as a medical disorder and assign offenders instead to treatment.
It’s been found that the implementation of drug courts that focus solely on the cases of such individuals not only reduces recidivism rates but also saves money. Taxpayers save $3 for every $1 spent on treatment for offenders. This increases financial support for not only effective rehabilitation for each person but also provides for the provision of better care for incarcerated individuals who are currently without many of the basics in health care as well as protection for corrections officers who work in these facilities.
So who could argue against the benefits? Some are concerned that there will be those who “slip through the cracks” – hardcore addicts who are potentially a danger to others in the community who could spend more time on the street harming others under the guise of receiving treatment. It’s been argued that many addicts downplay their criminal behavior in order to receive the lesser “sentence” of treatment rather than go to jail – that these addicts have not taken the treatment process seriously but instead used it as a cover to continue their criminal activities.
For example, a drug dealer who is busted with a medium to large amount of a certain illicit substance may attempt to convince the court that the drug was for his personal use rather than for sale and that his addiction is such that it requires such a large amount for ongoing maintenance. Without evidence that he has committed other, violent acts or has sold the drug to others, he could be one of those who stays on the street and continues to do harm under the protection of the law.
What Do You Think?
What do you think? Are drug courts a positive option for some patients? Or do they put communities in harm’s way by keeping current or potential “criminals” on the streets? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts below.