Why Locking Up Colorado Drug Offenders Makes No Sense And Does NOT Work – It has been my experience that incarcerating those addicted to drugs – is a mistake. What follows are good – solid arguments for not jailing those who struggle with drugs.
Jailing Drug Offenders – Not A Deterrent
There exists a very large body of evidence that supports the argument all criminal defense lawyers should always make at sentencing – that is – the incarceration of drug offenders does not have a significant deterrent effect on a Defendant’s drug use.
One group of research studied the relationship between the use of incarceration and rates of drug use. The result? Increased incarceration of drug offenders does not result in a corresponding decline in drug use in states that punish drug users harshly using their jails and prisons.
The science of addiction explains why the threat of and even the actual incarceration of chronic drug addicts has very little impact on them. The answer? Changes in the brain over time. The repeated use of addictive controlled substances changes how the brain actually performs it’s functions.
Chronic drug abuse changes the natural inhibition and reward centers of the brain causing the addict to continue use drugs notwithstanding adverse health, social, and legal consequences.
Addicts lose the ability to exert self control or make sound decisions because the brain is seriously impaired.
What Is Drug Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.
It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
Substance Abuse Treatment Works
Current research supports the notion – by clear and convincing evidence – that substance abuse treatment works. Treatment for alcohol and drug use especially through the use of “therapeutic communities” are particularly effective. Here’s the rub, alcohol and drug treatment will work equally well for those who are court ordered into treatment and those who voluntarily enter into treatment!
Some examples of treatment modalities:
The Matrix Model Of Treatment
The Matrix Model is one type of treatment modality. It is a multi-element package of therapeutic strategies that incorporates “evidence-based” treatment elements, such as cognitive behavioral therapies, relapse prevention techniques, positive reinforcement, and motivational interviewing.
The Contingency Management Model Of Treatment
Contingency Management (CM) is a systematic application of positive reinforcement principles within a treatment protocol. Research demonstrates that CM techniques are very effective at reducing drug use. It integrates a community reinforcement approach that addresses lifestyle changes in multiple domains including family relationships, social networks and work.
Why “Positive” Drug Treatment Stops Crime
The factors identified with reducing crime are:
Strong ties to work,
Stable employment, and
The goal then should be not incarceration – but assistance in adding as many of the factors (above) that actually help a person stop their criminal acts as is possible.
Incarceration and community supervision have little positive impact on the crimes related to drug use. To the contrary – strong evidence exists that imprisonment and harsher sanctions mean higher rates of subsequent offending. Because drug addiction erodes self control and the ability to make sound decisions, the rules that apply to other forms of criminal acts don’t work.
Addiction is chronic. Relapses are expected because of the brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking within drug addicts. The drug addict just doesn’t respond to the same threats as others prosecuted in the criminal justice system.
The kind of “forced abstinence without treatment” that occurs in jails will not cure addiction. Individuals who go “cold turkey” “cold have to learn how to avoid relapse. This process is similar to other chronic relapsing diseases which include diabetes, asthma, or heart disease.
Published Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations
The NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) has published 13 principles taken from a review of the scientific literature on drug abuse treatment and criminal behavior. I close with these 12 principles:
1. Drug addiction is a brain disease that affects behavior.
2. Recovery from drug addiction requires effective treatment, followed by management of the problem over time.
3. Treatment must last long enough to produce stable behavioral change.
4. Assessment is the first step in treatment.
5. Tailoring services to fit the needs of the individual is an important part of effective drug abuse treatment for criminal justice populations.
6. Drug use during treatment should be carefully monitored.
7. Treatment should target factors that are associated with criminal behavior.
8. Criminal justice supervision should incorporate treatment planning for drug abusing offenders, and treatment providers should be aware of correctional supervision requirements.
9. Continuity of care is essential for drug abusers re-entering the community.
10. A balance of rewards and sanctions encourages prosocial behavior and treatment participation.
11.Offenders with co-occurring drug abuse and mental health problems often require an integrated treatment approach.
12. Medications are an important part of treatment for many drug abusing offenders.
13. Treatment planning for drug abusing offenders who are living in or reentering the community should include strategies to prevent and treat serious, chronic medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis.
Why Locking Up Colorado Drug Offenders Makes No Sense And Does NOT Work
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