Friday, June 6, 2008

Treatment versus prison

Drug courts touted for savings

ST. LOUIS - American taxpayers would save more than $46 billion if drug addicts now in prison were instead treated, according to a study released Friday at a national convention of drug court professionals.

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a former U.S. drug czar, and actress Melanie Griffith joined experts in calling on lawmakers to increase funding for such courts.

"This is not a war on drugs," McCaffrey said. "This is a problem for our families in America. In order to turn drugs around in this country, we're going to have to treat those 1.5 million people who are addicted."


The study from the Urban Institute in Washington found that about 3 percent of arrested addicts are referred to a drug court, which offers supervised treatment to nonviolent offenders whose records are expunged if they complete the program.

"Most addicts need something more than being warehoused," said Judge Charles Simmons Jr., a drug court judge in Greenville, S.C. "Drug courts are putting families back together, and they are decreasing crime at a tremendous savings to taxpayers."

Housing an inmate in prison can cost up to $40,000 a year while drug court treatment costs up to $3,500 per offender a year, Simmons said.

McCaffrey said 15 years of research has yielded definitive proof that drug courts significantly reduce crime by as much as 35 percent. He said legislators and the public may get behind the system once they understand its cost savings.

"The math in unarguable," McCaffrey said. "If you want to unclog America's prisons, drug courts need to be taken to scale."
Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars comments:

A guy gets arrested for drug possession, regardless of what the drug is, and often sees mandatory minimum sentences for prison time (how about 25 to life for .03 grams of meth?). Now he's got a felony on his record, he spends a year or two in prison and that makes him very difficult to employ. In many cases, a family is torn apart by this as a member goes to prison. And the person convicted is now faced with time in a brutal prison that, if he wasn't a violent person when he went in, will certainly make him one by the time he comes out.

It's insanity, an absolutely ass backwards public policy that causes far more harm to society than any good it could possibly do.

Someone else commented on Ed's entry with the following:

You must be one of those elitists, using facts and data and stuff to back up sound arguments against emotional and ineffective policies that are based on wishful thinking and people's perceptions of "sin."

When have our pandering pols ever made intelligent public policy regarding sex and drugs? A subset of our populace has a warped sense of right and wrong, and we end up with an endless and expensive war on something that doesn't fix, and typically worsens a problem. So teen pregnancy rises because of abstinence only "education," and two generations of "criminals" are created by pig-headed anti-drug laws. Both of these major public policies run entirely contrary to what the evidence demonstrates, and yet our fine fellow countrymen continue to vote for the ignoramuses who invent these moronic policies.

Why is it political suicide to stand in front of a group of voters and say, "We've lost the fake war on drugs. We need to decriminalize drugs, stop jailing people for possessing them, purge criminal records for simple possession, and spend a lot less money than it costs to incarcerate and interdict on treatment for the addicted. Drug abuse is a public health issue, not a law and order issue."

Until such time as someone can get elected who says that we are stuck with this crap.

And I think that about covers it.

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