The Effectiveness of Rehab Centers Versus Prison

Over the last half-century, the United States has proclaimed itself in a war against drug abuse. In June 1971, then U.S. President Richard Nixon proclaimed drug abuse to be public enemy number one. It launched a legal strategy that would attempt to curb drug abuse through harsh punishment.

Millions who have suffered from various levels of drug and alcohol addiction became criminals. U.S. prison beds were quickly packed full of sick people who had no more control over their addiction than a person who became obese because they couldn’t curb their unhealthy eating habits.

Over the years, the call to battle against addiction changed somewhat. However, the impetus has continued to favor incarceration over rehabilitation. The policy has failed miserably. Updated statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons indicated nearly half of the federal inmates in the United States are there as a result of drug offenses.

These men and women, many only guilty of suffering from a disease, double the number of inmates incarcerated for weapons, explosives, or arson crimes. These numbers are both disturbing and sad. America’s policy toward drug abuse has been a failed strategy. We have lost this war. However, there is a solution.

The War is Lost

Some feel that the failed strategy to wage war against the disease was never winnable. Government policy stiffened sentences for anyone charged with a drug offense. This policy alone overtaxed our penal system.

No one seemed to address the increasing danger of creating career criminals out of people suffering from a potentially treatable disease. The end result was a criminal policy against drug addiction that overwhelmed the legal system. The problem has gotten worse, not better.

Simple possession of an illegal drug earned someone a minimum sentence. Third-strike laws cemented the criminal aspect of drug and alcohol addiction. The policy of treating drug abuse as a willful crime was inherently flawed.

If an alcoholic or drug addict has little or no control over their substance abuse, how can they be expected to stop if threatened with jail time? Thousands of trained professionals have tried to impress upon lawmakers that processing alcoholics and drug addicts as criminals would never work. Upon release, former inmates had no defense against another relapse.

Nevertheless, those who do not understand addiction continued to vote for legislators who continued to reinforce failed policies. This war was unwinnable from the very beginning. Jailing addicts and alcoholics never provided a solution. However, behind new evidence supporting the benefits of treatment, there is a new solution to America’s drug abuse problem.

A Better Solution

Millions of people suffering from the disease of addiction have been incarcerated, swept up in America’s self-proclaimed war on drugs. These people needed help, not a prison sentence. The statistics for relapse from individuals released from American jails and prisons are eye-popping.

There is a better solution, and that solution begins with a treatment program. There are many obvious factors that contribute to alcoholism and drug abuse. However, it seems that only educated professionals in the field of recovery understand these factors.

It is said that addiction is but a symptom of other issues. Rarely, if ever, are these other critical issues treated in a prison or jail environment. Treating addiction takes a staff of professional experts.

The ability for drug addicts and alcoholics to get the help they need while incarcerated is limited at best. This one failure of the system is directly responsible for the high relapse rate of released inmates.

Treatment is not a full-proof guarantee of lifelong sobriety. Nevertheless, the probability of an addict or alcoholic living their life clean and sober increases dramatically when rehab is the choice vs. incarceration.

Treatment can save a person’s life, but it also saves the criminal justice system valuable resources. There is a growing tendency to level court-ordered treatment in drug-related criminal cases. This at least allows the individual a chance to find a solution to living without drugs or alcohol.

The alternative has not worked. Now is the time to make treatment the first choice when dealing with drug abuse offenses, and prison sentences issued to only the hardened offenders. America lost the war on drugs, and this is a better solution.

If you feel you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, there is hope. All you have to do is ask for help. Help is available. Don’t leave your freedom to be determined by the legal system. Reach out today before it’s too late.

Additionally, if you know someone who suffers from an addiction, reach out to them as well. Be a voice in your community to help rekindle the decades lost by treating a disease as a crime. Treating addiction as a crime was doomed to failure. However, there is a solution.