Alternative Options to Prison

Of the myriad of reasons why people enter into the criminal justice system, illicit drug use is one of the most serious. Drug addiction and abuse don’t simply go away while a person is incarcerated; the underlying issues still remain and can make it harder for a person to readjust to daily life after being released from prison. The close correlation between drugs and jail is a hot topic among legislators, taxpayers, and the general population.

Drugs and Crime Go Together Too Well

In an article from Newsweek it is estimated that of the 2.3 million inmates in the US justice system, approximately one-half of them have a history of substance abuse and/or addiction. That amounts to over 1 million persons. The Centers for Disease Control’s estimate was far more striking, citing an estimated 1.9 million people in jail or prison who have used illicit drugs. Because drug use impairs one’s cognition, decision-making abilities and inhibitions, the risk for committing crimes while under the influence is high.

  • Approximately 83 percent of state prisoners and 73 percent of federal inmates have used illicit drugs in the past.
  • The use of drugs contributed to criminal offenses. Around 33 percent of state and 22 percent of federal inmates were influenced by drugs at the time they committed the crime. Thirty-six percent of jail inmates were doing drugs at the time of the offense.
  • The U.S. Justice Department notes that two-third of drug offenders released from prison will return to jail or prison within three years.
  • An estimated one-half of the drug offenders mentioned above will be sent back to prison on a technical violation, such as failing a drug test.
  • Of the estimated 800,000 people in the criminal justice system who needed or may have benefited from substance abuse treatment, less than one-third received it.

Why Is Treatment More Important Than Prison?

Seeking treatment for an addiction or abuse issue is critical to establishing a healthy lifestyle for the future. When compared to prison or jail, drug treatment seems like a no-brainer move because it tackles a contributing factor to the crime and it costs less in the long-term. The costs of incarceration are incredibly high as is, considering all the aspects of keeping a prison or jail running (such as staff, structural maintenance, additional security, etc.).

The idea of using drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration has proven to be relatively cost-effective for the states who have instituted such measures.

Maryland, for example, saw average costs for offenders decrease from approximately $20,000 to $4,000. The same report on mentioned that the costs for treatment generally range from $1,800 to $6,800, far less than the cost of incarceration. California’s Proposition 36 mandated that those entering the justice system on drug-related offenses be given substance abuse treatment rather than a prison sentence. The state initially spent millions on the first few years of the program but estimated that, at a long-term glance, the program could save the state up to $150 million annually.

Seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol problem can be a difficult thing to do but it may be necessary. Foundations Recovery Network has specialized facilities that offer individualized assistance for drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Do you feel as if your actions (or those of someone you love) are putting you or anyone else in danger? Are you getting into legal trouble because of your addiction? Is your drug use causing you to take dangerous risks? If so, it may be time to get help. Call us at any time of the day or night. We’re here to talk you through this.

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