Over the past 40 years U.S. incarceration has grown at an extraordinary rate, with the United States’ prison population increasing from 320,000 inmates in 1980 to nearly 2.3 million inmates in 2013. The growth in prison population is in part due to society’s shift toward tough on crime policies including determinate sentencing, truth-in-sentencing laws, and mandatory minimums. These tough on crime policies resulted in more individuals committing less serious crimes being sentenced to serve time and longer prison sentences. The 1970s-1980s: The War on Drugs and Changes in Sentencing Policy Incarceration rates did rise above 140 persons imprisoned per 100,000 of the population until the mid 1970s.
The current system that incarcerates people over and over is unsustainable and does not lower the crime rate nor encourage prisoner reformation. When non-violent, first time offenders are incarcerated alongside violent repeat offenders, their chance of recidivating can be drastically altered by their experience in prison. Alternative sentencing for non-violent drug offenders could alleviate this problem, but many current laws hinder many possible solutions. Recently lawmakers have made attempts to lower the recidivism rates in America, for example the Second Chance Act helps aid prisoners returning into society after incarceration. The act allows states to appropriate money to communities to help provide services such as education, drug treatment programs, mental health programs, job corps services, and others to aid in offenders returning to society after incarceration (Conyers, 2013).
Effectiveness/Efficiency- Drug Courts This section’s goal is to show the effectiveness and efficiency of 4 studies on the previously outlined programs. To begin, Federal funds paid for a study named The Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE), the study measures the effectiveness of adult drug courts. Since drug courts aim at keeping addicts away from drugs and out of jail, the purpose of the study was to “evaluate the effects of drug courts on substance use, crime, and other practices,” and to note when outcomes proved positive (Rossman, Rempel, Roman, Zweig, Lindquist, Green, Downey, Yahner, Bhati, Farole, Jr., 2011, p. 1).
Similarly, Brown found that in a matched cohort study comparing traditional prison sentencing to drug court programs it was shown that there was significantly less recidivism in the drug court participants than in the offenders that were sentenced to jail or prison time. In this study 137 drug court participants were matched with offenders that had been sentenced traditionally. It was shown that the recidivism rate for drug court participants was only thirty percent, whereas the traditionally sentenced participants had a forty-seven percent recidivism rate. Brown also examined the time between program completion and participants committing a new crime. In the drug court participants, the mean time was 614 days, and in the traditionally sentenced participants the average time was 463 days (Brown,
When the American prison system began, it was believed that rehabilitation, the act of restoring one’s character, could be beneficial for criminals to start over. According to Tom Wicker, “The system…began as a reform impulse, the idea that if offenders were isolated, shielded from the public mockery that had accompanied hangings and the stocks, given time to repent, and worked hard, they could be turned away from crime and transformed into useful citizens” (xii). Criminals could become better citizens and have a positive outlook for a future if they worked hard and were secluded from the outside world. Although this idea seems more humane, it did not last long in the prison system because many people believed that any crime committed deserved
They are less likely to return if low level drug offenders receive treatment during and after prison. Olson and Lurigion state ,"Drug addiction is a chronic relapse brain disease with biological, psychological, social and behavioral concomitants"(600). If a drug criminal is treated for his addiction, he/she will be less likely to commit crimes. The treatment has to be comprehensive and provide a wide range of treatment (Olsen and Lurigion (601) Many professions believe treatment is more effective than incarceration for several months.
Fielding et al. (2002) reported that the higher the client’s risk level (based on previous crimes), the more likely that he or she would recidivate, time to new arrest was shorter, and time to new drug arrest was shorter. Again, this study is limited in size and generalizability. Just as important, the authors found that it was cheaper for a client to go through the program than be incarcerated in prison or placed in residential treatment. This analysis is only valid when comparing the cost of incarcerating a client in prison and the costs for a client to participate in the program.
Similarly, other possible drug-related crimes, such as theft, burglary and robbery, are all extremely serious offences which carry severe penalties. However, the imposition of punitive penalties fails to adequately respond to drug-related crime. This is because punitive measures fail to address the complex nature and causes underlying the commission of drug-related offences. It has been found that after release from prison, without accessible, integrated and consistent drug treatment and support such as access to housing and employment, people with substance use issues are at higher risk of re-offending and returning to prison, or dying from a drug overdose.
In 1972, former President Richard Nixon made his infamous statements regarding crime and drug abuse. In this speech, he declared a war on crime and drugs and intended to decrease the number of people using drugs and the amount of crimes that were committed. Since this declaration, incarceration rates in the U.S. have gone up by 500%, even though the amount of crime happening has gone down. One of the reasons why I feel our rates have risen, is because sometimes, we put people in jail when they don’t need to be there in the first place.
51% of all prisoners released are returned to the prison system and nearly 30% are returned within the first six months of their release (Pinard, 2006). Roughly two-thirds of all prisoners are rearrested within three years (Pinard, 2006). The high rates of incarceration and recidivism have reinvigorated debate about the purpose of the prison. The time is ripe to debate prison reform. "America 's penal system needs a top-to-bottom overhaul - and a movement of people ready to do something about it is taking shape nicely" (McCarthy,
The War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration The United States incarcerates at a higher rate than any other country in the world. In fact, the U.S. alone is home to 25% of the world’s prison population; this, however, wasn’t always the case. The rapid growth of the U.S. prison population can be traced two decades back to the declaration of the War on Drugs by President Ronald Regan in the early eighties and previously mentioned by President Richard Nixon. In an effort to reassure White Americans’ of their elite positioning in the underlying racial caste system in a time where inner-city communities were facing major economic collapses, the Regan administration called for the reinforcement of the sale, distribution, and consumption of illicit drugs,
To really break the cycle of drug addiction individuals and wrongdoing in America, we should put a Drug Court inside scope of each American criminal justice systems as needed. Qualified drug-addict dependent people might be sent to Drug Court in lieu of conventional sentencing or consequences due to their illegal drug use and addiction. Drug Courts keep people in
Due to the unprecedented expansion of the war on drugs by the Reagan administration started a long period of skyrocketing rates of incarceration. The huge number of offenders incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenders increased from 50,000 to 1980 to over 400,000 by the year 1997. In 1981, Nancy Reagan began a highly publicized antidrug campaign called “Just Say No”, as public concerns arose due to the portrayals by the media about people addicted to a smoke-able form of cocaine dubbed as “crack”. This campaign set the stage for zero tolerance policies implemented in the late 1980’s.
In 2000, U.S. agencies surpassed the $100-billion-a-day barrier in spending to incarcerate individuals with serious addiction problems. Rehabilitating and managing offenders who misuse alcohol has proven to be extraordinarily difficult. Despite traditional sanctions and ever-increasing terms of incarceration, addiction drives many of these offenders to continue committing crimes, resulting in a revolving door. Alcohol- and drug-involved offenders are overwhelming the criminal justice system, creating unwieldy court dockets, burdensome caseloads, and overcrowded jails and prisons. Yet, programs and sanctions have had little impact on the rate of alcohol-involved crime.
This leads to the question of whether the justice system is doing an adequate job of dealing with drug addiction. Instead of incarcerating people for drug abuse, an alternative is treating victims by rehab and treatment. This paper will exam why treatment is the superior option for