Incarceration or Rehabilitation for Non-Violent Drug Offenders
Statistics have proven that incarceration alone is a monetary pitfall and does not deter the cluster of non-violent drug related crimes in this country. We need to create an alternative habilitation pattern for these offenders including an assessment of their mental health, specialized life skills training, and occupational employment assistance: in some cases, in lieu of incarceration and in others, in conjunction with incarceration. Ask yourself these questions: What affect would this type of intense program have on the recidivism rate? Would we be saving tax-payer dollars by producing graduates from drug rehabilitation programs instead of housing repeat criminals? To eliminate overcrowding in our prisons, reduce the soaring incarceration costs, and provide parolees the tools necessary to re-enter society in a productive manner, we must develop a rehabilitation system for the non-violent drug offenders. Throughout my research, there are many differing opinions on this subject depending on the source. Reading information from a psychologist, you see they tend to bend toward forced rehabilitation. Reading information from government policy-maker institutions, you see they tend to follow the prison sentence route. One thing is for certain, regardless of profession, all tend to agree on the need to revamp the current judicial system because it is not working and extremely expensive to the federal and state governments. Although some people believe that rehabilitating these offenders is much more costly, actually statistics prove the contrary is true. The cost of rehabilitation is much less than incarceration. Three of the states that have already implemented such programs are New York, Maryland, and California. After looking at the following statistics provided by McVay, Shiraldi, and Ziedenberg of the Justice Policy Institute, you will see that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math and see the extravagant savings in this type of rehabilitation. In New York, significant results have been achieved by enabling drug offenders to plead guilty to an offense and enter a residential, therapeutic community treatment system for up to 2 years. The average cost of the two year program, including the residential treatment, the vocational training, and all support services was $32,974, compared to the average cost of $64,338 if the participant would have been sent to serve the average term of 25 months in prison. In Maryland, nearly 86% of the respondents favored judges having the option to order alternative treatment sanctions rather than prison sentencing. In so doing the have reduced the annual costs of an offender from $20,000 per year to $4,000 per year. “With roughly 24% of the state’s inmate population serving time for drug abuse offenses (5,487 out of 23,239 inmates) in June of 2001…Maryland placed third nationally in the percentage of state prison admissions comprised of drug offenders according to the Department of Corrections” (McVay). In November of 2000, California voters approved Proposition 36, a diversion program requiring certain non-violent drug offenders to be sentenced to drug rehabilitation and probation instead of jail or prison, reducing their costs associated with inmates from $27,000 per year to $4,500 per year. It has not been without its financial problems. With the financial instability of California, the state has made budget cuts eliminating partial funding nearly every year since conception. What began as over $145 million in allotted funding for the program has now dwindled to less than $20 million dollars.
Once convicted and incarcerated of a drug related felony, it is proven that offenders have little to no chance of main streaming back into society without stringent habilitation efforts. Incarceration alone does not provide the offender with the skill set necessary to overcome the actual...
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