Implement policies that aim to treat addicts for their disorder instead of jail time.

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For the better health and life of countless individuals, and therefore society as a whole, the government must implement policies that aim to treat addicts for their disorder rather than punishing them for it. Here are my three main points;

-An individual’s psychological well-being is at stake when they become addicted to drugs. In medical journals, it is treated as a mental disease. Treatment should address all of the patient’s emotional needs that initially led to the drug abuse, how medication must be combined with behavioral therapies, and how crucial a long and extensive recovery process is for the most positive results. The treatment process is nothing less than extensive, so adding jail time to the mix is essentially wasting precious recovery time and only prolonging the addiction for the individual.  These people are commonly non-violent offenders, so keeping them behind bars is not protecting anyone, yet it is harming them as an individual.

-Though the time behind bars spent is limited, the impact of a felony conviction lasts their whole life, and even a short period of imprisonment has been shown to affect people’s earnings and ability to get a job, to participate in elections, go to school, to be parents, and to become productive parts of their society. The people being incarcerated do not accumulate work experience which will diminish the before known work skills that can prevent the ex-drug users from getting or even keeping a job. By simply reducing their employment abilities, it will likely cause a raise in recidivism rates of the released drug offenders, which will impose further costs on society in the form of both criminal activity and imprisonment costs.  “67.8% of the 404,638 state prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states were arrested within 3 years of release, and 76.6% were arrested within 5 years of release.” (Durose 1). Even if prisons adequately treated drug abusers, being in jail can instantly negate the positive effects of what treatment can do.

-Regarding government spending, it costs less to fund a rehab or treatment facility than the cost of incarceration for an extended period of time. Detoxification is only effective when it goes along with a long-term treatment plan, almost seventy percent of people who are put in jail for drugs get sent right back in the system because they are not getting the proper treatment that will help them stay sober. In Brooklyn, New York, Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) is a program that allows for drug addicted “criminals” to plead guilty to an offense and then enter a community treatment center that can last up to two years and serves as an alternative for prison. Results showed high levels of the graduation sobriety rates and also the low levels of arrest and rearrests after the program ended.  This is proof that providing efficient treatment for drug addicts will not only help substance abusers out in the long run, but it will save the country a lot of money for things of other importance.

The way the Criminal Justice System is handling these addicts must end, they are punishing these users for harming nobody but themselves. This endless cycle of recidivism needs an extreme reform. The people who are affected by it, their lives are at stake and that is all because the system does not take into account their basic needs for survival in this society and how corrupted they can (and will) turn out as a result of imprisonment.

Thank you for your time,

Michelle Hood



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