Treatment of Substance Abuse For Prisoners Can Lead To Less Drug Crime And A Lower Prison Population
Most people would likely agree that drug crimes were a major contributing factor in the alarming increase in the number of Americans currently incarcerated in the various penal institutions in the country. The overpopulation in our prisons is partly due to the increase in drug crime rate. At Wallin & Klarich, our drug crime attorneys have seen a significant increase since our firm started over 30 years ago.
America’s so called “war on drugs” perhaps began when then President Nixon declared to Congress that drugs were a “serious national threat.” Nixon officially declares a "war on drugs," identifying drug abuse as "public enemy No. 1." It was also Nixon who created the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 1971. In 1986, President Ronald Regan appropriated $1.7 billion dollars as part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 to fight the drug war. The bill also created mandatory minimum penalties for drug crimes, which are increasingly criticized for promoting significant racial disparities in the prison population because of the differences in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine.
Since the 1980’s, states and the federal government have sought to curb the drug problem in America by imposing harsher sentencing penalties on drug crimes, and by allocating billions of dollars to fight the drug war. Since the so called “War on Drugs” began, the number of people incarcerated in America continues to grow, and the problems associated with drugs continue to increase. In recent years, many states have sought to combat the drug problem through treatment of drug offenders.
In California for example, voters passed Proposition 36 which allows courts to offer treatment in lieu of incarceration for non-violent simple drug possession charges. Other states such as Arizona and New York have enacted similar measures. However, a major problem still exists with a lack of treatment options for those inmates already incarcerated.
A recent study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University found that approximately 85% of the inmate population could benefit from drug treatment. Of the estimated 2.3 million inmates currently housed in America’s prisons, approximately 1.9 million could benefit from drug treatment. Of the 85% who would benefit from treatment, only about 11% actually receive treatment. Moreover, 1.5 million of prisoners meet the DSM IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction.
It appears that many have adopted the attitude that these prisoners deserve to be punished, and do not deserve to be treated for substance abuse. However beyond any argument about the compassion or consideration that ought to be given to drug offenders in the penal system, the potential positive consequences to society are great. According to the CASA report, 458,000 inmates have a history of substance abuse and were either: 1) under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of their crime, 2) committed their offense to get money to buy drugs, or 3) incarcerated for an alcohol or drug law violations.
States throughout the nation are dealing with financial troubles and over-crowding in their prisons. Treatment of prisoners with substance abuse issues would help alleviate both these strains on states. Compared to non-substance involved inmates, prisoners with substance abuse problems were: more likely to be re-incarcerated, likely to begin their criminal careers earlier, and have more contacts with the criminal justice system. The CASA study also found that alcohol and drugs are significant factors in the commission of many crimes.
As the outcry grows over prisoners being released early because of overcrowding, perhaps voters and state legislatures need to reexamine the attitude and treatment of those with substance abuse problems in prison. As the CASA study has shown, treatment will lead to less crime, and less prisoners.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, it is imperative that you hire an aggressive, experienced criminal defense firm. Hiring an experienced drug crime defense law firm can greatly increase your chances of keeping your freedom, and ensure you receive the lowest possible sentence. The drug crime attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been helping people for over 30 years.
Please feel free to contact Wallin & Klarich to discuss your case. You can reach us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (888) 280-6839 or go to our website at www.wklaw.com for more information. We will be there when you call.