Criminalizing Non-Violent Drug Offenses is Not an Effective Way of Treating the Problem

There is no denying that addiction changes the way a person thinks and acts. This can lead to arrests for things such as possession of drugs, selling drugs, driving while intoxicated (DWI), stealing, domestic disputes, and other drug-related offenses. Many of these are non-violent offenses, but may still result in incarceration. However, criminalizing non-violent drug offenses does not do anything to resolve the problem. It temporarily removes these people from the streets, but does not provide treatment or support to help them overcome their addiction and turn their life around. When they are released, they are likely to enter back into the same type of behavior because that is what they know.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “In 2012, nearly 7 million adults were involved with the criminal justice system (State or Federal prisons, local jails), including nearly 5 million who were under probation or parole supervision.” Studies also found that a drug offense was the most serious offense for 51 percent of Federal prisoners in 2009. There are millions of people involved in the criminal justice system who could benefit from addiction treatment instead of jail time.

The Downfall of Jail for Drug-Related Offenses

One of the major drawbacks of sentencing drug-related offenders to jail time is that it can exacerbate addiction problems. It can reinforce the person’s belief that they are hopeless, worthless, and do not have much of a future except for substance use. With a criminal record, it can be more difficult for the person to secure a job, which could help them to break the cycle of addiction and get their life back on track. Time spent in jail also does nothing to address the underlying issues that led to the drug-related crime in the first place. It does not help the person to change their actions or thought patterns. It does not equip them with the skills to overcome these challenges and adopt healthier behaviors and routines.

Instead, they are eventually released into the same environment and situation they were living in before. Merely stopping drinking or drug use is not a solution for addiction. There is much more to it than that. Even being on parole or probation does not provide people with the resources or support they need to create a more meaningful future free from addiction. It only monitors them to verify they are not violating the terms of their probation and reprimands them if they do.

Finding Hope and a New Path to Recovery

Northbound gives clients facing drug-related offenses hope for the future. Each of our clients are evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if they would be a good fit for alternative sentencing to drug rehab. Even if their offense was not directly tied to drugs or alcohol, if it was the result of substance use, they may still benefit from addiction treatment. In some cases, if the client completes all requirements of their sentence and treatment, their charge may be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor or dismissed altogether. This can be a huge step in turning their life around for the better.

The Court Services provided by Northbound assists our clients in obtaining the therapy, counseling and education they need to get a fresh start. It can be confusing and overwhelming dealing with all of the paperwork, processes and procedures of the court system. Northbound supports families in navigating these issues and getting their loved one into treatment instead of jail. They work very closely with judges, attorneys and district attorneys on changing how non-violent drug offenses are handled.

Benefits of Alternative Sentencing to Drug Rehab at Northbound

Engaging in comprehensive addiction treatment reminds clients that there is hope and change is possible. It helps to break the cycle of jail and addiction by providing intensive therapy and evidence-based activities that support a healthier lifestyle.

The collegebound and careerbound programs equip clients with life skills and resources necessary to either further their education or secure a job while in recovery. They are able to become more productive members of society and strive toward goals they have set for themselves that otherwise might have been out of reach. Clients receive support throughout all stages of recovery to help them maintain their sobriety, improve communication, and rebuild their life free from addiction. Depending on the offense, some clients also complete community service or driver education programs in conjunction with drug rehab.

In addition, Northbound is very active in the community to drive awareness and break down stigmas regarding addiction and recovery. They engage in a variety of activities:

  • Speaking at local churches, schools, and organizations about addiction, prevention, and treatment.
  • Working closely with the criminal justice system; the Director of Court Services is part of the local Bar Association for attorneys and attends court hearings with clients.
  • Building a rapport with community leaders, legal professionals, and the public to create a recovery community with a culture that supports clients and positive change.
  • Maintaining an open, honest, and transparent environment that offers tours of the facilities and insight into how and why addiction treatment works. Staff is passionate, enthusiastic and genuine in their desire to help clients and change the perception of addiction and recovery.

 

Many of the staff at Northbound have been through recovery themselves and some have struggled under the practice of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders. They understand firsthand the challenges that clients face and the need for proper substance use and mental health treatment. Overcoming addiction is about changing your whole lifestyle, not just one small part of it. While jail can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and low self-worth, treatment at Northbound empowers clients with the confidence and strength to change and create a healthier lifestyle that keeps them out of the criminal justice system in the future.

If you are facing a drug-related offense, reach out to Northbound to see if our Court Services and drug rehab program can help. We will work with you along every step of the way to create a more positive outcome.

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Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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