Drug Treatment Vs. Incarceration: Drug Courts Can Offer Second Chances

Drug courts can help low-level offenders opt for treatment vs. incarceration.

It’s no secret that American drug use and addiction has reached crisis proportions. In addition to year-after-year escalations in overdose fatality, drug abuse continues to negatively impact the American economy, the family unit and community life, while directly contributing to various other indirect crises. One of the most immediate public welfare and quality-of-life debacles associated with substance use is being played out in our legal system. For decades, there has been a culture of “jail first, treatment second” surrounding American substance abuse, even for the lowest-level offenders.

An unfavorable legal outcome for a drug offense can significantly derail an offender’s life, and in some cases, effectively end it. In recent years, overcrowding of prisons combined with the demonstrable decline in family and community life sustained by those who lose a loved one to incarceration as a result of a low-level drug offense has prompted more and more stakeholders to consider the issue of treatment vs. incarceration. This has translated into an increased focus on the development of what are called drug court programs.

Drug Abuse and Incarceration Rates

Data from the Prison Policy Initiative indicates that over 2.3 million Americans are currently locked up, many of whom are still awaiting trial. Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that over 76,000 inmates are serving federal sentences for drug offenses, representing a staggering 45.5 percent of the overall federal prison population; this does not include those who are currently awaiting trial or sentencing. In actuality, drug courts have been established or in development in all 50 states for the past 30 years; however, they have often been underutilized. There are currently more than 2,500 drug court programs throughout the United States, serving nearly half of all the nation’s counties.

What Happens In Drug Courts?

Once declared eligible, drug court participants are provided intensive treatment for at least a year, during which they must adhere to certain rules of conduct and conditions, including appearing in court at scheduled times, drug testing compliance and others. The primary goal of these programs is to help low-level and limited-history drug offenders move past their offenses, rehabilitate themselves and rebuild their lives in recovery. Depending upon the exact nature of the offense, successful completion of the treatment program can result in dismissal of the charges, reduced or set‐aside sentences or lesser penalties.

Drug courts provide an avenue for treatment vs. incarceration so participants don’t have to be saddled with a criminal record or jail time for what often amounts to an ill-advised bout of bad judgement. The drug court system relies on the cooperation of local municipalities, court personnel, probation officers and other law enforcement stakeholders in communities throughout the country.

Recovery Unplugged Can Help You

If you’re facing legal proceedings related to drug or alcohol addiction, and are in need of treatment vs. incarceration, Recovery Unplugged offers expert, comprehensive court liaison services to guide you in your decision making. Our executives have years of experience working within different states’ drug court systems, and our court liaison will help you through the process. Don’t let a mistake or a disease take your freedom away. Recovery Unplugged is ready to help you.