Each year, millions of people are affected by drug abuse worldwide. Indeed, in the United States alone, approximately 20 million Americans age 12 or older reported use of illicit drugs in the past 30 days, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). As the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) explains, this represents eight percent of the population. Unfortunately, only about two million of those people are receiving the treatment they need to overcome substance abuse.
As people become more afflicted with addiction, their lifestyles may become more aligned with criminal activity. Abusing illicit drugs is illegal, but obtaining them is also illegal, and people affected by abuse may engage in illegal means to get their drugs. That is partly because the brain changes when people develop addiction—changes in a way that makes them nearly powerless to resist the urge to seek and abuse substances.
While people who abuse substances or engage in illegal activities to obtain them are committing crimes, imprisonment may not always be the best way to deal with them. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is now recognized as a disease, one which affects the brain in a way to cause much of the compulsive, drug-seeking behavior which characterizes it. Thus, addicted individuals may benefit most from treatment rather than jail or prison.
Why Is Drug Rehab A Good Alternative To Jail Or Prison?
First, and perhaps foremost, the Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) explains, “each offender and crime is unique, and prison or jail time may not always be the most effective response.” This is especially true for addicted individuals. Instead, going through a state drug court program or entering a drug rehab by court order may be a productive alternative. Drug courts work primarily to change criminal behavior in individuals affected by substance abuse. This effort is imperative, as many people who are imprisoned commit crime after being released. The FAMM states that “over 40% of all people leaving prison will reoffend and be back in prison within three years of their release.”
With this dire truth, finding a way to treat people who can benefit from it may be an effective alternative. Instead of locking up people who have committed crimes due to their substance abuse, ordering mandatory drug rehab may help those people build better lifestyle habits. This in turn could help integrate fully functioning individuals back into society, lessening the financial burden of funding prisons for the national economy. Further, the FAMM found that, “eight in ten (77%) adults believe that alternatives to incarceration (probation, restitution, community service, and/or rehabilitative services) are the most appropriate sentence for nonviolent, non-serious offenders and that prison or jail are appropriate only if these alternatives fail.”
How Does It Work?
If drug rehabs are an option for certain individuals, in lieu of prison, how can we be sure they won’t just blow off treatment? Many state drug courts order extensive monitoring of those individuals sentenced to drug rehab to ensure they have completed program goals. There are drug courts set up within all of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, but no drug courts within the federal system. As part of their programs, drug courts may require an individual to complete certain measures, be subjected to court monitorization, and meet certain eligibility requirements as part of the program sentencing. Once a person receives court-ordered treatment as a sentence, that person must complete all steps of the program, without incident, to complete the sentence. Some of the measures a person must take or things which make a person eligible are:
- Complete drug screens, such as urine tests, randomly
- Attend counseling, or support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Meet with a probation officer (if sentenced to probation)
- Regularly report to the court about progress of the program
- Be rewarded by or disciplined by the court for success or failure in the program
- Be a nonviolent offender afflicted with substance abuse, and meet other eligibility criteria, such as not having a history of crime or violence, and no other convictions
- Must be referred to drug court by the prosecutor or judge; a referral may require that the person first plead guilty to the offense
For some sentencings, a person who successfully completes a drug court program may be exempt from pleading guilty, may be able to avoid getting a conviction for the crime, may have a prison or jail sentenced reduced, may avoid a prison or jail sentence altogether, or may be allowed to have convictions removed from their record.
Other Ways People May Enter Drug Rehab In Lieu Of Jail Or Prison
While drug rehab must be ordered by a judge or suggested by a prosecutor, first time offenders may stand a fair chance of receiving drug rehab as a sentence. In particular, people who receive a first offense DUI (driving under the influence) charge may have an opportunity to change the court’s view of their future sentencing. For example, if a person receives a first offense DUI, he or she will then have a court date, typically about a month later. While waiting for that court date, if a person begins a form of treatment (i.e. entering support groups or outpatient counseling), this may help the person to demonstrate to the court that he or she is taking strides toward recovery. While it is not a guarantee that the person will be given drug rehab or other forms of treatment instead of jail time, having a start on treatment may signal to the court that the person is ready to recognize and seek treatment for his or her addiction.
Getting Help With Drug Rehab
If you know someone who could benefit from entering a drug rehab instead of jail or prison, you may want to get help before it is too late. Addiction is a disease which affects people’s decision-making. Before your loved one makes choice he or she may regret, help get them into the treatment they need. Contact us today at DrugRehab.org to learn more about treatment options and drug rehab centers.
DrugWarFacts.org—Drug Courts & Treatment Alternatives To Incarceration
Families Against Mandatory Minimums—Alternatives To Incarceration In A Nutshell
Justice Policy Organization—Treatment Or Incarceration?
National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence—Facts About Drugs
National Institute On Drug Abuse—Drug Addiction Treatment In The Criminal Justice System