While few can argue that treating addiction provides better outcomes than locking up addicts, there are varying scenarios that start to add questions to such an assertion. One of them is in regard to sentencing people to rehab after committing other crimes, rather than going to jail as punishment. It is one thing for someone arrested for a drug-related offense, but what about theft? What if someone doesn’t want to go to treatment, but would rather serve out a few months in jail – can they still be helped?
Philosophical arguments go in many different directions, but there is information that backs up the notion that treatment is better for both the individual as well as society. The Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nor Volkow, claims that treatment can be effective even if the client is not their voluntarily at first.
When the arguments focus on where to draw the line on types of offenses, many people feel that the dealers should be locked up. However, most dealers are also addicts who started selling to support their habits. In these cases, some areas still provide the opportunity for dealers to receive treatment, such as a recent case in California. When this is the situation, the presiding judge often gives additional stipulations, such as reinstating the original suspended sentence if there are any failures to complete treatment or parole violations.
Such tight restrictions have appeared to be successful in settings known as drug courts. This is where non-violent offenders who have alcohol and other drug problems are dealt with. Rather than being sentenced to jail, they’re often diverted into treatment and probation, with additional goals that have to be met on employment, routine drug screening, and paying back court costs. This blend of the criminal justice system and addiction treatment field may provide the most balanced approach, combining compassion and recovery with accountability and potential punishment.