Rehabilitate, Don’t Incarcerate

A look at why we should consider rehabilitation for drug users. Addiction treatment works!

minute read
By Richard M. Knapp, JD/MBA

Alternatives to imprisoning drug users

What if there was a way to really make an impact on our society and the rampant drug epidemic that is taking over America?

Did you know that according to a study done by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, currently inmates serving for drug offenses make up 50.1% of the inmate population? And according to the New York Times, the average annual cost nationally per inmate to the taxpayers is $31,286. Some of these inmates that are serving time for drug offenses could actually be serving up to five years of jail time for possession of less than 50 kilograms of marijuana.

Recently I came across some information as I was researching this topic that led me to believe that there is a much different way that we could be handling the incarceration of minor drug offenders. As an alternative to incarcerating these minor drug offenders, what about using that money to put these same individuals into a treatment program?  It would be far more effective for the individuals. Not to mention there are many other benefits to society at large to spending this money on rehabilitating drug users rather than throwing them in prison.

But, they don’t deserve it

Some might say they don’t deserve it. I am not referring to rehabilitating the drug lords and dealers who prey on the weak of society just growing the problem. No, I am talking about those at the bottom of the food chain, the down-trodden and addicted. At their worst, these people may know nothing more in life than how to get their next fix.

I, for one, am not willing to absolve them of ALL guilt, but their harm to society as a whole is much less than a dealer. Unless they are resorting to stealing or another crime to support their habit, for the most part, they are hurting only themselves. Of course, this is also assuming that they are not driving drunk or high and putting the lives of innocent people at risk. I am saying that THESE people may be less culpable than the dealer who keeps this whole nasty and destructive system in operation.

Attack the problem from the demand side

So let’s rehabilitate them.

Let’s attack this problem (forgive my economics background) from the demand side instead. While currently there is an effort to reduce the supply of illegal drugs, I propose we also spend some money reducing the demand for the product. Those in recovery have no need to buy drugs and, in turn, when demand drops then the prices will drop making the drug industry a less profitable one.

Can insurance help?

As is the case with many societal woes, the solution is money. Those who need treatment the most are typically the ones who cannot afford it. At Sherwood Hills Recovery Resort, we easily get 4-5 Medicare/Medicaid calls for every interested person with private insurance. If Medicaid paid for treatment, our facility would be overrun.

Oh, and what about ObamaCare you ask? Well that’s not a whole lot better.

Let’s invest in rehab

What I am saying is this. I’m no advocate for socialized medicine or socialized anything, but this problem is large enough and costly enough to the public in so many ways that it just might be better to put that money into the reform and rehabilitation of drug users. Let’s stop using the prison system as a giant public detox. Because in the end, we tend to see those same people back on the street using again the day they get out.

Just a thought.


About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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