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.
Within the jail and prison system there are many types of offenders living together. Some of these offenders require special attention and programs while incarcerated. These special requirements can be based on a mental or physical health issue, age, or type of offense; such as sex offenses or particularly violent offenses. For the purposes of this paper the focus will be on the special requirements of drug offenders, and more specifically drug abusers. On the surface it may not seem like these offenders need any special considerations while incarcerated. However, a deeper look will show that drug addicted offenders bring more than just an addiction with them, and if these things are not addressed they can pose additional problems for correctional
Drug courts, initially propelled in Florida in 1989, are an arrangement of escalated treatment and supervision. The thought is to treat the instances of peaceful substance-mishandling guilty parties uniquely in contrast to other criminal cases in light of the fact that the dependence is at the base of the criminal action. Accentuation is on recovery instead of discipline.
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,
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).
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.
The purpose of this literature review is to prove that drug court programs are an effective alternative to incarceration for people struggling with substance abuse issues. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics seventeen percent of prisoners at the state level were incarcerated due to drug related crimes. Eighteen percent of federal cases were related to drugs (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004). According to Lutze and Van Wormer the drug court model was formulated in response to the revolving cycle involved with substance addiction and crime.
Essentially, the war on drugs has demonstrated to be an exorbitant expense. The federal government in 2002 alone spent $18.822 billion in the form of expenditures such as treatment, prevention, and domestic law enforcement (CSDP, 2007, p. 54). However, given that the drug war has garnered meager results, this investment may be interpreted as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Alternatively, the money that has been allocated to arrest and detain drug offenders may also be a source of contention. CSDP (2007) “Of the 1,846,351 arrests for drug law violations in 2005, 81.7% (1,508,469) were for possession of a controlled substance.
After analyzing 69 adult Drug Courts, every practice found there was higher recidivism reduction compared to another program (NREPP , 2017, p. 4). Through studies on individual participants, SAMHSA found that “drug courts ‘significantly reduced the incidence of incarceration from a base rate of 50% to roughly 42% for jail, 38% for prison, and 32% for overall incarceration’” (NREPP, 2017, p. 6). Drug Courts save people from getting put in jail and this study shows how it works in keeping them out after completion. Low recidivism percentages are another huge plus to the courts.
The government and administrators of prisons and treatment centers are trying to lower the cost of incarceration and treatment centers. Treatment centers are the more expensive option but it last longer and has more permanent effects in low level drug criminals. The family and individual want the easiest option that helps them or their children to treat their addiction. They want to use treatment centers to treat the addiction to prevent them crime again. The effectiveness of prisons and treatment centers vary.
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.
The initial thinking behind the creation of minimum mandatory sentences was created by congress to aim in the capture and imprisonment of high level drug traffickers, and deter others from entering into drug trafficking or using illegal substances, which would create a safer society. However, the nation prison has been expanded with low level street drug dealers, and the accessibility to illegal drugs is more obtainable then before the enactment of the mandatory sentencing act. In fact, the number of drug offenders in federal prisons has increased 21 times since 1980. Contrary to what congress has believed in the past about the dangers of crack cocaine compared to that in powder form has been proven to be untrue, but little has been done to reduce the number of prisons affected by that belief.
This creates problems because it adds to the eminence amount of tax dollars spent every year. In the article “The high price of incarceration in America” by Aimee shows that the average American taxpayer spends about $260 a year that is almost 80 billion dollars a year for incarceration (1). There have been many voters who have been trying to reduce the amount of mass incarcerations that have been going on since the 1980’s. The majority of prisoners who were released between 2014-2015 returned to crime but the rate that they were committing the crime and returning was dropped at an astonishing degree. In the article “Prosecutors Fight to Plan to Lower Drug Sentencing “ by Sari, Horwitz (1) shows how government officials are trying to cut back on the amount of long term sentencing for first time offenders.
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