Soon, celebrities like Lindsey Lohan won’t be the only ones sentenced to rehab facilities instead of receiving jail time for crimes they commit while addicted to illegal substances. With drug-induced offenses now outnumbering gunshot deaths and exceeding motor-vehicle fatalities in 17 states, it’s been clear for a long time that the nation’s drug problem has long since gotten out of control.
The 2010 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report states that the percentage of booked arrestees testing positive for drugs range from 49% in DC to 87% in Chicago.
And that’s regardless of the crime.
Last week, the Obama administration announced a 5-year plan to reform the criminal justice system. The plan expounds on the signing of the Fair Sentencing Act last August, which reduced the 100 to 1 sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine, a problem that disproportionately impacts minorities.
Conventional, progressive-thinking wisdom is that alcohol and drug abuse is a disease that should be responded to in a humane way. It entails the thinking that sending folks to treatment may be a better option than locking them up over and over again each time they commit a crime. That’s significant considering substance abuse is a major factor contributing to addicts committing crimes in the first place, according to the ONDCP white paper.
To that end, the Obama administration is also expanding the number of drug courts as part of the 5-year plan. Currently, the nation’s 2,600 drug courts divert about 120,000 people each year into treatment facilities instead of prison, a white paper from The White House’s Office of National Drug Control policy, released last week, observed.
“Over half of state and federal inmates used drugs during the month preceding the offense corresponding to their sentences,” Ben Tucker, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy puts the problem into perspective during a call with reporters recently. “African Americans and Hispanics consistently have higher proportions of inmates in state prison who are drug offenders compared to whites.”
The Obama Administration is also implementing the Second Chance Act. Passed by Congress with bipartisan support, the act funds state, local and tribal reentry courts, as well as family-centered programs, substance abuse treatment, employment, mentoring and other services improving transition from prison and jail to communities and reducing recidivism.
ONDCP has been working with HUD to encourage home leasing to ex-offenders who aren’t registered sex offenders or were in jail for manufacturing methamphetamine (otherwise known as “crystal meth”). Meanwhile, the Justice Department awarded $100 million to 178 state and local reentry grants and another $83 million to 118 new grantees this past September.
The cost of treatment drug abuse (including research, training and prevention efforts) was estimated to be $15.8 billion. That’s a fraction of these overall costs of drug abuse which are estimated at about $193 billion a year through lost productivity, health care related costs, and incarceration. Researchers reveal that residential treatment is more cost effective if offenders attend post-release treatment.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy said, “We want reentry to be successful as people go back to their communities.”