Why should drug abuse treatment be provided to offenders?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS) About Drug Abuse Treatment for People Involved with the Criminal Justice System.

Reprinted from “Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations” by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (in the Public Domain) by Thomas A. Wilson, MA, LCPC & CEO of Tom Wilson Counseling and Telehealth Center.

2. Why should drug abuse treatment be provided to offenders?

The case for treating drug abusing offenders is compelling. Drug abuse treatment improves outcomes for drug abusing offenders and has beneficial effects for public health and safety. Effective treatment decreases future drug use and drug-related criminal behavior, can improve the individual’s relationships with his or her family, and may improve prospects for employment.

In addition, it can save lives: A retrospective study of more than 30,000 Washington State inmates found that during the first 2 weeks after release, the risk of death among former inmates was more than 12 times that among other residents, with drug overdose being the leading cause.

Outcomes for substance abusing individuals can be improved when criminal justice personnel work in tandem with treatment providers on drug abuse treatment needs and supervision requirements. Treatment needs that can be assessed after arrest include substance abuse severity, mental health problems, and physical health. Defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges need to work together during the prosecution and sentencing phases of the criminal justice process to determine suitable treatment programs that meet the offender’s needs.

Through drug courts, diversion programs, pretrial release programs that are conditional on treatment, and conditional probation with sanctions, the offender can participate in community-based drug abuse treatment while under criminal justice supervision. In some instances, the judge may recommend that the offender participate in treatment while serving jail or prison time or require it as part of continuing correctional supervision post-release.