State and local governments are increasingly offering mandatory addiction treatment as an alternative to incarceration. If they attend rehab, people sentenced with court-ordered addiction treatment may avoid jail time and the many serious consequences that go along with lengthy convictions.
Types of Court-Ordered Addiction Services
Judges generally allow offenders to choose an addiction treatment center, as long as it meets state guidelines. There are two options for treatment: 1) inpatient and 2) outpatient rehab programs.
Individuals must pay for their own treatment, but there are many state and local programs that help with costs. Check with a state’s mental health and substance abuse division to determine local options. Furthermore, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a list of departments by the state at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ufds/abusedirectors. The list also provides a way to contact states about court-approved addiction treatment programs.
Success of Drug Courts
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), states and municipalities began mandating addiction treatment to lower the number of drug addicts and drug-related crimes. Drugs and alcohol are related to as many as 81 percent of the crimes of state prison inmates, according to a 1998 report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. With many prisons becoming overcrowded due to drug-related convictions, jurisdictions have adopted the following three methods for handling sentencing guidelines:
- Sentencing reform—Some states are changing old laws that require minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. The new laws also alter punitive scoring systems, which led to automatic convictions for many people. With the revised laws, states are saving money because fewer people are in prison, but the laws alone do not help individuals achieve and stay in recovery.
- Diversion programs—These programs offer offenders the opportunity to waive a jury trial in exchange for entering an addiction treatment program. However, this option is only available to offenders with no prior record or a minimum number of previous offenses. Individuals who meet these criteria and follow the rules of the program may have their cases dismissed.
- Drug courts—These courts offer another alternative to incarceration. Under this model, a judge oversees a defendant’s case alongside treatment counselors, the prosecutor, the defense counsel, law enforcement officials, and educational/vocational professionals. This model is active in all 50 states with more drug courts set to open in coming years.
With the right help and diligence in treatment, drug addicts may not only avoid incarceration, but they may also get clean.