However, with this mandatory sentence comes seemingly excessive punishments for being afflicted with a real disease. These types of solutions to the drug problem in the United States fail entirely to grasp drug problems as a real medical issue and therefore throw out medical treatment over punitive punishment, (Nadelmann 2007). Not to mention many of these programs go only so far, failing to provide the support and structure many drug addicts need in order to get themselves clean. Much research has shown that more intensive inpatient programs prove more successful than less regulation programs (McKay et al. 1997). Therefore, ineffective drug treatment programs within prison walls are failing to truly encapsulate the addict as a means of supporting their efforts to get clean.
One other major solution that is currently being used in many states is the enactment of a drug court to handle specific drug cases. This court can then provide alternatives to the sentence imposed on the drug offender. The offender, when convicted, is still sentenced to serve prison time. However, the judge in drug court provides an alternative: if the offender successfully attends and completes drug rehabilitation therapy or programs, that prison sentence is done away with, (Armstrong 2003). This is an excellent step in the right direction for offenders and drug addicts. Not only does it give them the opportunity to stay out of prison, but it provides them a chance in alternative programs aimed specifically at getting them clean, specifically in vulnerable groups such as low income and the homeless (Hodulik 2001). However, there are some problems with the current system in place in many states. In many cases, the offenders themselves are responsible for covering the financial burdens of their drug treatments. Yet, they would not be responsible for their daily incarceration if they were in prison, that is covered by the state. This leaves one to wonder how states can believe their drug courts and programs to be successful when they expect already financially instable inmates to pay for their own rehabilitation, along with all drug court fees and penalties. It is essentially a system that is in place to provide an alternative, however that alternative is not viable within real life applications. On top of this, many drug addicts may prove not to be successful in completing their first round of treatments. As a disease, some degree of failure should be anticipated in the fight to remain clean. However, many states do not accommodate such growing failures, and if the offender fails at one program -- he or she is off to prison. Many of these drug courts place the judge in charge of monitoring offender's treatment, not a doctor (Armstrong 2003).
It is clear that imprisoning drug offenders based on the conditions of their disease is inefficient. Current prison treatments fail to encapsulate the true nature of the disease and current alternatives fail to present a solid plan to get the addict off of drugs. In this day with limited financial resources, it is clear that drug offenders should be somewhere other than spending the tax payers' money in federal and state prisons.
In the midst of the current system there are several recommendations to be considered which would improve the state of our judicial system. One would include
Three recommendations mandatory follow up treatments for inmate's leaving prison. One program in California showed an impressive reduction of the recidivism rate by 50% with the use of a treatment program that followed the newly released inmate into the real world, (Limieux 2002). Following the lines of such successes could vastly improve the success of addicts attempting to cleanse themselves of their addictions. Another recommendation would be absolutely no prison sentencing for mere possession cases. Rather than implement prison sentences, the state and federal courts should require mandatory rehabilitation and treatment sentencing in order to best provide for the recovering addict. Finally, the judicial system should encourage familial support through treatment process and imprisonment. Research has shown that "family and community ties can facilitate an inmate's successful reintegration into society upon release," (Lemieux 2002:52). Thus effort place on improving familial support during the entire recovery process should prove of great importance, especially over the isolation seen in the current punitive design.
Armstrong, Andrew. (2003). Drug courts and the de facto legalization of drug use for participants in residential treatment facilities. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Vol 94(1):133-156.
Andrew Armstrong presents a look into one of today's most popular solutions, other than sheer force used by history as starting in Florida in 1989. Through this exploration there are signs of success and of failure, with many states still not treating drug addiction like the disease that it is.
Drug War Chronicle. (2007). Sentencing U.S. jail and prison population hits all-time (again) -- 2.3 million behind bars, including more than half a million drug offenders, Drug War Crusade. Issue 564. Retrieved July 19, 2009 at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/564/US_jail_prison_population_all_time_high_drug_offenders.
This startling article from the drug war's opposition shows exactly how out of hand drug related prison sentences have thrown our judicial system into. Using the finite amount of space and resources our prison system offers, we have packed in real addicts to suffer with criminals instead of getting the true medical help they need. This proves not only a strain on the addicts themselves, but also on all the U.S. taxpayers who foot the bill for our correctional system.
Hodulik, Jennifer. (2001). The drug court model as a response to "broken windows" criminal justice for the homeless mentally ill. Journal of Criminal Law. Vol 91(4):1073-2005.
This article looks specifically at dealing with the use of drug courts within the context of determining punishment for homeless drug offenders. Jennifer Hodulik expresses the need to treat homeless drug abusers as individuals suffering from a disease, and in many cases also some form of mental illness as well. The research shows that punitive punishments for this vulnerable demographic only exacerbate the problems of those homeless who are addicted to some drug and suffering the mental ramifications of that addiction. Drug courts provide the best available solution, for they allow for some growth and potential rehabilitation which would change these peoples' lives in a dramatic way and help get them off the streets and out of trouble with the law.
Johnson, Holly. (2006). Concurrent drug and alcohol dependency and mental health problems among incarcerated women. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. Vol 39(2):190-211.
This article focuses primarily on the link between substance abuse problems and mental health problems. The research study followed a survey of incarcerated women to determine the link between mental health problems and substance abuse problems. What was also uncovered by the research was the overall inefficiency of prison drug treatment programs to effectively target both the substance abuse and the mental health problems attached to that abuse, leaving many women in the study to relapse despite going through the motions of proper treatment.
Kay, Amanda. (2003). The agony of ecstasy: reconsidering the punitive approach to United States drug policy. Fordham Urban Law Journal. Vol 29(5):2133-67.
This article presents researcher Amanda Kay as a forefront for objecting to typical punitive punishments for various possession offenses. It highlights the drug ecstasy in particular based on its rising popularity with America's you and the debate within the scientific community on how dangerous of a drug it is. Beginning with explaining the drug classification system, Kay then turns to explain how various classes are punished differently -- ecstasy being a drug with a harsh punishment attached, despite its general recreational use by American teens in comparison to other drug which carry higher chances for abuse.
Kim, Il-Joon; Benson, Bruce L.; & Zuehlke, Thomas W. (1993). An economic analysis of recidivism among drug offenders. Southern Economic Journal. Vol 60:169-173.
Researchers in Florida conducted a study which aimed at exploring the recidivism rate among Florida's drug offenders and how that recidivism affected both the individual offender's financial stability as well as the entire state correction's economic health after dealing with such large numbers of drug-related prisoners. The study followed 16,788 drug offender released before 1989 to see what percentage would recidivate with future drug offenses and how those future offenses would effect the economic climate of the Florida State Corrections. Researchers found that although prison proves more of a deterrent for future drug offenses than probation, there are still large numbers of drug offenders who do recidivate, showing that punishment for our nation's drug problem fails to efficiently provide real solutions.
McCormick, Patrick T. (2000). Just punishment and America's prison experiment. Theological Studies. Vol. 61:173-181.
Researcher Patrick T. McCormick presents an exposing overview of America's war on drugs and how it has affected both…
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