Years ago, the general consensus was that addiction was evidence of an individual’s being a bad person, dishonest and weak of character and will. As a result, being chemically dependent was largely criminalized with addicts who resorted to crimes to sustain their addictions being forced into abstinence via lengthy prison sentences.
Nowadays a relatively new concept called drug court could redirect troubled addicts to the treatments and help they need instead of merely punishing them for crimes that they likely wouldn’t commit if they weren’t suffering from addiction. However, before defining and discussing the concept of drug court, it’s important for one to understand the connection that exists between addiction and criminal behavior as well as why the punitive system can be more harmful than helpful to individuals with addictions.
The Relationship Between Addiction & Criminal Behavior
As mentioned above, individuals who develop alcoholism or drug addiction experience profound changes, amounting to the deterioration or degradation of physical, mental and emotional well-being, social, and even spiritual health. While all the effects are harmful, the changes to one’s thinking and emotions have the potential to cause harm with much greater implications for one’s life. When an individual has become dependent on alcohol or drugs, substance abuse becomes central to his or her life.
The addict must make substance abuse a priority each day as one needs to consume his or her substance of choice regularly in order to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. In fact, the fear of withdrawal is considered one of the biggest motivators in the persistence of dependency, preventing individuals from seeking the treatments that they need while also making them likely to resort to extreme measures in order to sustain their addictions.
Most individuals who aren’t suffering from addiction wouldn’t consider criminal behavior to be a viable solution to most problems. This is likely because sober individuals don’t feel that the dire consequences of crime are worth again that’s minimal when there are alternative solutions that don’t involve criminal behavior.
However, addicts quickly experience desperation when they are on the cusp of withdrawal, making them significantly more likely to resort to criminal behavior. Over time, they will likely require less and less desperation for crime to be a viable solution.
How the Criminal Justice System Can Be More Harm Than Help to Addicts
Hypothetically, jail might seem like a viable means of getting an addict sober when they refused to do so voluntarily. However, research has found that addicts generally cannot be forced into sobriety and abstinence. Although addicts are sober while in jail, addicts forced into sobriety via a prison sentence have astronomically high rates of relapse upon their release.
Since an addict’s tolerance decreases while abstinent in prison, relapsing upon their release from jail puts these individuals at a very high risk of overdose since they would be likely to imbibe amounts that are far higher than their bodies are worth processing. Moreover, there have been reports of many jails and prisons having either no addiction treatment services or inadequate support for addictions, making such an abrupt cessation of substance abuse dangerous as withdrawal can be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal in some instances.
Drug Court Treatment: Treating Instead of Punishing Addiction
With addiction rates reaching epidemic levels, there has been a large number of drug-related crimes and crimes committed by addicted offenders. In fact, recent studies have estimated that almost one-in-five crimes are committed by individuals who are trying to obtain the money they need to buy drugs. As officials and law enforcement have tried to find more effective ways to combat the increasingly high rates of addiction, there has been a call to reconsider how addicted offenders are handled by the justice system, which is where drug court comes into focus.
Drug court is a specialized court docket program that targets individuals who suffer from alcohol or drug dependency. In particular, drug court was conceptualized to be available to addicted offenders and defendants, addicted juvenile offenders, and addicted parents who have pending child welfare cases.
Rather than putting these individuals through the traditional justice system, drug courts give individuals the option of entering a rehabilitation program rather than going to prison, supervising them closely for the duration of their treatment to ensure compliance in the hope that this will yield more positive results than would serving time in jail.
According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, drug courts sentence addicted offenders to a minimum of a one-year period of receiving intensive treatments that will allow them to get sober while requiring them to be accountable for meeting their obligations to their families, court, themselves, and society.
Over the course of the given period, individuals must pass regular, random drug screens in order to show that they’ve been complying with the court’s sobriety requirement as well as appear regularly in court so their progress can be monitored by their judges.
When individuals prove to be meeting the requirements and doing well, they may be rewarded with things like a reduction in the amount of time left, but failure to meet the requirements can result in punishment or sanctions.
How Drug Court Helps Offenders & Society
There are many benefits to utilizing drug court for eligible offenders rather than the traditional punitive system. Sources have estimated that of the 650,000 inmates that are released from prison each year, as many as two-thirds or more will be behind bars again within three years of their release. With many of those offenders either being addicted to alcohol or drugs or having committed a drug-related crime, drug court has the potential to offer these individuals a method of retribution that also allows them to overcome the disease that has caused them to resort to criminal behavior.
Drug court shows promise of reducing rates of (recidivism committing another crime and returning to prison after having completed a prior sentence) due to individuals receiving the treatment required to maintain sobriety by overcoming physical dependency and learning some of the underlying factors that contributed to the development of the disease.
Moreover, it’s estimated that some states such as New Jersey will pay $25,000 less to put offenders through rehabilitative drug treatment rather than putting them in jail.
Find Health & Happiness in Recovery with Drug Treatment Center Finder
Recovery isn’t an overnight process. It takes time, conviction, and effort. However, individuals who are forced into sobriety via confinement without being given the treatments necessary to overcome the underlying issues is a major disservice to both addicts and society. If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency and would like to learn more about recovery, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help.
Call us now at 855-619-8070 to speak with a recovery specialist for a free consultation and assessment. We have helped countless individuals make their way back to a life of sobriety, healthy, and fulfillment. Let us help you or your loved one find happiness through recovery.