What does society get in return for their $30,000-a-year prison beds investment when we send a 1st time non-violent drug offender to prison?
The concept of prison as a reformatory for criminals is one that has long been inaccurate. In actuality, today’s prisons have become training grounds for career criminals and gang members.
I was shocked to learn that the majority of people serving long sentences have been locked up for minor, non-violent offenses.
According to “Prison Reform Talking Points by Rebecca Tuhus-DubrowMost of the growth in prison population has been for nonviolent offenders, especially those convicted on drug charges. Because of mandatory sentencing laws, over half of today’s inmates are incarcerated on drug charges, despite evidence that treatment programs are much more effective at preventing future drug offenses.”
Overcrowded prisons and a bottle necked court system has been a problem for years. Congressmen and women from all over the United States are looking for ideas and solutions to improve this situation.
New Hampshire has introduced Senate Bill 500 that would enable probation and parole supervisors to enroll their parolees in strengthened community drug, alcohol and mental-health treatment programs. With this bill in place a parole officer would have the option of imposing jail time when parole has been violated.
In Colorado they’ve initiated a drug court option a few years back and from all accounts this program seems to have taken off and become quite successful. Drug courts have become valuable tools that focuses on helping sick people get well and saves the prison space for the real criminals
Research has found that sending 1st time non-violent drug offenders to prison might not necessarily be in society’s best interest. There are other options, including Drug Court.
“Bureau of Prisons conducted a survey of drug treatment outcomes among inmates who were released no later than December 31, 1995, and who completed the residential drug abuse treatment program. The survey found that only 3.3% were likely to be rearrested in the first 6 months after release, compared with 12.1% of inmates who did not receive treatment. Furthermore, this survey concluded that individuals without a history of violence and individuals who served longer sentences were less likely to return to post-release substance use.”
One of the models of this program is in New Jersey. New Jersey has established a drug court that works together with a judge who leads a team of attorneys, substance abuse evaluators, probation officers and treatment counselors to support and monitor a participant’s recovery.
Drug court diverts non-violent, substance abusing offenders from prison and jail into treatment. A decade of research indicates that drug court reduces crime by lowering re-arrest and conviction rates.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy – “Approximately 73% of local jails provide drug treatment or programs, with 32.1% providing detoxification, 29.6% providing drug education, and 63.7% providing self-help programs. About 61% of convicted jail inmates who committed their offenses under the influence of drugs or alcohol had received treatment in the past.”
NAACP’s Chief Executive Officer stated. “With drug courts restoring lives, reuniting families, and making communities across this Nation safer, the time has come to put drug courts within reach of those in the criminal justice system most in need of this life-saving program.
Drug courts are not foolproof and some studies have indicated that theses programs may not even be effective, exposing a 70% drop out rate. So are we effectively spending the taxpayer dollar if only 1/4 to 1/3 of offenders allowed in the program graduate and they need to be in it indefinitely? That’s for you to decide.
Overall, it is estimated that the current adult drug court treatment program produces about $2.21 in benefit for every $1 in costs, for a net benefit to society of about $624 million. – quoted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Courts are operating or being planned in 50 States, the District of Columbia, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, two Federal Districts, and more than 70 tribal locations. For more information contact your local drug court you can find a listing by logging onto http://www.ncsconline.org/wc/CourTopics/StateLinks.asp?id=24&to…