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How Does the State Contribute to the Rehabilitation of Addicted Offenders?

— March 28, 2019

Increasingly, the justice system is realizing that the benefits of court-ordered rehabilitation for addicted offenders outweighs the traditional option of incarceration.

Incarceration has always been used as a tough punishment for offenders convicted of drug crimes. Today, legal experts are increasingly realizing that it doesn’t solve the problem of addiction. That’s why in many jurisdictions judges started sentencing criminals to rehabilitation in a mandatory substance abuse treatment instead of prison.

Why is rehab better than jail time?

Sending people who abuse substances to rehabilitation instead of prison benefits society and economics as it reduces the load on prisons, thus reducing the costs. But what is more important, it helps to improve the lives of addicted people because they get treatment, thus preventing them from returning to prisons where they often keep using drugs. We can have a long debate on the pros and cons of the juvenile justice system, but the benefits of drug courts are not unfounded. Numerous studies show that going to rehab is a better option than imprisonment. 

A study published at Sage Journals suggests that if 10% of all addicted people convicted of alcohol- and drug-related crimes went to rehab instead of jail, the United States would save $4.8 billion every year. If the number were 40%, the savings would reach $12.9 billion.

According to the Justice Research and Statistics Association, addicts who receive treatment are re-arrested less often than those who don’t (57% comparing to 75%). They also are re-convicted of a crime less often (42% compared to 65%). Within a year, only 30% of them get new jail sentences comparing to 51% of inmates who didn’t go to rehab.

How to get rehab instead of imprisonment?

Drug courts offer alternatives to incarceration or lighter sentences to those who agree to complete a drug or alcohol rehab program. Currently, there’re over 3,100 drug courts in the U.S.

Alternative sentencing laws may vary by jurisdiction. But you can discuss with your lawyer a possibility of hearing your case in drug court rather than in a conventional criminal court. You may be eligible if:

  • It’s your first or second offense 
  • You’ve committed an alcohol- or drug-related crime 
  • You’re committed a non-violent crime 
  • You don’t have a record of violence or sexual assault
  • You were drunk or high while committing a crime
  • You plead guilty
  • You have a drug or alcohol addiction
  • You agree to undergo a mandated treatment.
Hand reaching toward sunrise over a lake; image by Marc-Olivier Jodoin, via
Hand reaching toward sunrise over a lake; image by Marc-Olivier Jodoin, via

Do drug courts really work? Yes, because an addicted individual is motivated by getting the chance to redeem themselves, avoid criminal sentencing, and to improve their lives. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), individuals who complete a treatment program under legal pressure have as favorable outcomes as those who do this by their own will. 

Rehabilitation treatment is provided by licensed therapists. Effective treatment techniques such as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) will get you back on track. An extensive follow-up in the form of 12-step meetings will help you remain sober after leaving rehab facilities. 

Who will pay for court-ordered treatment?

Usually, the defendant has to finance the treatment. Health insurance could cover part or full cost of rehabilitation. Some non-profit centers provide inpatient and outpatient services on a sliding scale fee.

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