According to the Pew Center, more than 40% of adults released from prison will return to back to prison within three years. This high recidivism rate has many people rethinking how to best handle drug offenders. Many treatment professionals people feel that prison is no place for a non-violent drug offender.
If someone is arrested for possession of illicit drugs they should given a chance to get their lives turned around through a rehabilitation program. These days, more of these types of cases are being mandated by courts to go through treatment rather than locking them up. Critics of this type of alternative or community sentencing sometimes consider that allowing drug offender to enroll in treatment encourages a more lax environment when it comes to drug monitoring and the damage that addiction causes to society.
Drug diversion programs have been around for many years, and special drug courts have been established all over the country due to the huge caseload that this specialty represents. The court-supervised treatment programs are designed to help with the addiction while still ensuring that the addict is being strictly monitored over a period of time. Often lasting more than a year, offenders usually have to get jobs to pay back fines, do some sort of community service projects, submit to drug screens and generally be more accountable.
Sometimes this newer system doesn’t work, which is why it has become more critical in determining which offenders would be a good fit for this type of program. After all, there is a risk that they could quit the program and commit more crimes if they’re not in jail or prison. However, by and large these types of rehabilitation systems have been much more successful than simply locking people up.
One addict who was mandated to a drug diversion program explained how it changed her life. “It gave me insight to myself. It gave me access to therapy and tools that were able to help me go through life drug-free and be an asset to my community. Had I gone to jail…I might not have figured out who I was. I feel grateful for that diversion. I feel bad for people who don’t have the opportunity to go a diversion program,” explained Lisa Ortega.
Thankfully, Lisa’s story is echoed by more and more people throughout the country, as treatment and rehabilitation advocates are able to demonstrate not just the financial savings of these programs, but of course the immeasurable cost of lives saved.