Should Non-Violent Drug Offenders Be Remanded to Drug Court

Moore_Argument Essay February 18, 2013 Should Non-Violent Drug Offenders Be Remanded to Drug Court Pablo Rayo Montano and Rita Faye Myers two people in comparison, entirely different, yet both are currently incarcerated on drug related charges. The only commonality shared with the two incarcerations is the word “drug” the severity and the type of crimes are worlds apart yet both are serving sentences over 20 years. Montano, responsible for over 15 tons of cocaine entering the United States from Columbia per month, was convicted for drug smuggling.

At the time of his arrest the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stated his enterprise was so vast and organized “he had his own navy” which included a small submarine. Myers by contrast was as far from an international drug lord as one would expect. She is a nice, quiet, older woman with only a sixth grade education that currently is serving 21 years in an Alabama prison for forging a prescription for the opiate Dilaudid. It was the disease of her addiction that lead ultimately to committing the criminal act of forgery, a forgery that did not harm anyone else physically.

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The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) describes addiction as a primary disease, meaning that it’s not the result of other causes, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, addiction is recognized as a chronic disease; so it must be treated, managed and monitored over a person’s lifetime. Myers has an addiction, an illness that requires intervention and treatment from professionals specifically trained to help control the cravings associated with addiction.

Myers is only one of many people currently incarcerated today that are not receiving the proper treatment for the addictions that they live with. What makes this situation worse is that the prisons that these people sit in do nothing to assist in educating and rehabilitating these offenders. Courts believe by incarcerating these offenders they are preventing the usage and crime associated with the addict. In reality this is so far from correct, abstinence does not curb the desire, nor does it help focusing on providing the needed tools to help addicts understand the cravings of their addictions.

Without the proper education and foundation needed to lead a drug free life the offenders most often return to the same environment they were living in before their incarceration. Feeding what is commonly known as the revolving door effect within the prison system. This is where drug courts have started to become an alternative for the non-violent drug offender. Drug courts are intended to treat addicts who commit crimes due to their addiction, not criminals who happen to use drugs. What drug courts focus on is rehabilitation and intervention with a constant supervision by the court system.

This is typically an outpatient program where the offender is required to complete a very strict drug program which includes drug education, group and individual counseling, requirement to obtain employment and most of all submit to random drug testing . The courts also require a regular appearance to evaluate and monitor the offenders status. Upon completion of the 12 to 18 month program the offender is rewarded with the deferment (dropped) of the original drug charges. Once the initial charges are dropped than in most cases no felony charges appear on their permanent record.

Felony records can cause an adverse effect with future employment possibilities, housing issues, education grants and many other areas. For my first source I selected a book titled “Drug Court Constructing the Moral Identity of Drug Offenders I choose this book because of the wealth of information covering the history and operational guidelines of the drug court system. Through an extensive 5 year study they have provided proof that the drug court system is beneficial to the offenders and society.

This book explains the criteria that are used when considering the eligibility to participate in the drug court program, along with the expectations required of the offender. Many have argued that drug court is to selective and only pick the offenders they believe will succeed. This study proves that statement to be untrue by proving that the criteria used is very complex, and evaluates many different aspects of the individual themselves. The program accepts both high and low risk offenders, with the primary importance placed on will the offender truly benefit from the program, can they be rehabilitated.

The offenders are expected to adhere to very strict guidelines they must attend 3 counseling session weekly along with 2 AA/NA meetings, perform random drug testing weekly, attend court every 2 weeks, abstain from all alcohol and drug use and many other various rules. When an offender is violation of program requirements a sanction (punishment) may be imposed. The severity of the violation would determine the severity of the sanction and could also result in removal from the program completely.

Taking into consideration that the offenders are addicts, the courts expect a certain percentage of offenders will have so called “setbacks” such as a positive drug test, or missed meetings. Setbacks do not automatically result in immediate removal from the program, as one would expect. In fact each case is evaluated by the judge and staff with consideration regarding the individual and the circumstances which may have triggered the setback. In final the 5 year study resulted in determining that the reduction in recidivism (repeat offending) averaged 32 percent.

When one considers the cost of incarceration along with the risk of becoming a repeat offender when released, it makes sense to utilize drug courts and help bring good people back from a bad place in life. I really appreciated this particular book for the amount of extensive information that was detailed and extremely informative. While they did not provide very much with regards to what others consider as the negative impact that drug courts are associated with. I feel that if something such as drug courts can create a program that has a positive impact on recidivism for non-violent drug offenders than it should be implemented nationwide.

Society is concerned with drug related crimes well here is a program that has a better rehabilitation success than rehabilitation by itself. I am sure we can agree that one of the ways to lower drug related crimes is to lower the drug use itself. According to an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution against the overall benefits of the drug court system, they claim that drug addiction is a health problem making the criminal justice system an invalid approach in resolving. Although over the past 20 years there have been success stories that are real and deserve to be celebrated, they are only providing a partial picture.

Based on analysis of existing research by several academics and the federal government’s General Accountability Office (GAO): Claims that drug courts have significantly reduced costs, incarceration or drug use are unsupported by the evidence. A study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that people referred to treatment from the criminal justice system do not fare better than those referred through other means, nor do they reduce recidivism by even half a percentage point.

The overall opinion is that drug courts need to focus on more serious law violations that are linked to a drug problem and expand access to treatment and other health interventions in the community so that they are available when people seek them. This particular view point was interesting with some of the statistical information I discovered. One area I had not considered is the amount of drug court offenders that are participants that would have probably fared better by pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

The number of people wanting drug treatment was also quite alarming to learn according to the 2009 U. S. National Survey of Drug Use and Health 7. 8 million Americans want help but are unable to acquire it due to the lack of facilities available. For my next view point I refer to an opinion advocating the effectiveness of drug courts in breaking the cycle of substance abuse, addiction and crime through the use of the drug court system. C. West Huddleston III is the chief executive officer of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) and executive officer of the National Drug Court

Institute (NDCI). Douglas B. Marlowe is the chief of research, law, and policy at NADCP and Rachel Casebolt is a research coordinator for NDCI. The above mentioned officials support the issue that research does verify that no other justice intervention can rival the results produced by the drug court system, which are proving effective. According to over 10 years of research drug courts combined with treatment significantly improve treatment outcomes, reduce crime, and greater cost benefits than any other strategy.

Scientists from the Treatment Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania reported in 2003, “To put it bluntly, we know that drug courts outperform virtually all other strategies that have been used with drug-involved offenders. ” Additionally, Columbia University’s historic analysis of drug courts concluded that drug courts provide “closer, more comprehensive supervision and much more frequent drug testing and monitoring during the program than other forms of community supervision.

The results have shown a great success in achieving the ultimate goal which is to lower drug use and criminal behavior substantially while offenders are participating in drug court. ” When viewing this article I liked the fact that it reinforced the results that had been expressed in my first source, with the statistics showing the continued positive results occurring in the current drug court system. Steven K. Erickson is the John M.

Olin Fellow in Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, argues that there are serious questions about the efficacy of drug courts as an alternative to incarceration, contending that drug courts are poor public policy. Erickson claims that studies are fatally flawed from a methodological standpoint. The studies include: failure to use intent-to-treat analysis, inadequate comparison groups, and short follow-up periods leading to sweeping conclusions. Erickson contends that judges are not mental health professionals; they are judges whose job is to oversee the proper administration of justice.

Instead drug courts dispose of this well-established role in favor of a “jack of all trades” approach in which judges are transformed into quasi-mental health providers. I was in complete disagreement regarding this article, Erickson does no mention regarding the extensive staffing of professionals covering the entire treatment process. The courts in reality serve as a watch dog so to speak by ensuring that the offender actively participates and receives the full focus of mental, medical and physical treatment needed in order to benefit from the program. Stuart Taylor Jr. columnist with the National Journal, a nonpartisan magazine that advocates reform of the criminal justice system quotes “incarcerate the really bad guys, we should give judges discretion to send non-violent defendants to mandatory treatment and rehabilitation programs. ” A 1993 Justice Department study suggested that some 21 percent of all federal prisoners, and one-third of federal drug prisoners, are nonviolent, low-level offenders who pose little or no danger to society. That would come to more than 30,000 of the 147,000 people in federal prisons today.

By utilizing the drug court system for non-violent offenders we free up the prison system for the violent offenders to be sentenced to the maximum lowering the rate in which violent criminals are being released early due to the overcrowded prison system. John J. Dilulio, previously an influential advocate of long prison terms, had a change of heart 5 years ago. He now agrees that we need to devote more resources to drug-treatment and crime-prevention programs and place more effort on prisoner-rehabilitation.

Many politicians have conceded with the right incentives and opportunities, many small-time drug offenders can stay clean and straight when given the proper treatment and education. This can’t happen if we don’t stop taking their lives away. Charles L. Hobson an attorney for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a nonprofit public interest law organization claims that drug offenders are dangerous, and failing to imprison them puts the public safety at risk. He quotes “virtual decriminalization of drug possession and personal use does more harm than good. ”

When I first started researching this particular controversial subject I held a strong believe that drug courts are a positive answer to a growing over population in our prison system. Now with the deep research covering both sides of the debate my opinion has grown much stronger for drug courts. In my opinion research and studies have proved beyond a doubt that drug courts are beneficial in such a wide range of areas. Drug courts benefit the non-violent offender by affording them the opportunity to forego incarceration in exchange for becoming straight and the ability to achieve a better life.

Drug courts benefit the prison systems by keeping the violent offenders behind bars where they belong. Society is saved the millions of dollars every year that are spent in the maintaining and building of the prison system. It is my view point that Drug Courts are a “win, win” situation for all parties involved. Do I believe that non-violent drug offenders should be remanded to drug courts? In a simple yes or no statement,” yes, I believe it is something that should be implemented on a mandatory nationwide level. ” Bibliography Mackinem, Mitchell B.

Drug court : constructing the moral identity of drug offenders / by Mitchell B. Mackinem and Paul Higgins. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-398-07800-3 (hard) — ISBN 978-0-398-07801-0 (pbk. ) 1. Drug courts–United States. 2. Drug abuse–Treatment–Law and legislation–United States. I. Higgins, Paul C. II. Title. http://www. ajc. com/news/news/opinion/pro-con-drug-courts-an-effective-alternative-for-o/nQsSs/ Margaret Dooley-Sammuli is deputy state director, Southern California, for the Drug Policy Alliance, and authored “Drug Courts Are Not the Answer. Nastassia Walsh is research associate at the Justice Policy Institute in Washington, D. C. , and author of “Addicted to Courts. ” Huddleston III, C. West, Rachel Casebolt, and Douglas B. Marlowe. “Drug Court Supervision Is a Viable Alternative to Mandatory Minimum Sentences. ” Mandatory Minimum Sentencing. Ed. Margaret Haerens. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from “Painting the Current Picture: A National Report on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Court Programs in the United States. ” National Drug Court Institute. 008. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. Document URL http://ic. galegroup. com. ezp. mc. maricopa. edu/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow? failOverType=&query=&prodId=OVIC&windowstate=normal&contentModules=&mode=view&displayGroupName=Viewpoints&limiter=&currPage=&disableHighlighting=false&displayGroups=&sortBy=&source=&search_within_results=&action=e&catId=&activityType=&scanId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010649226&userGroupName=mcc_mesa&jsid=5f4e3c9ec842b3b011420e172536fb6a Gale Document Number: GALE|EJ3010649226.

Erickson, Steven K. “Drug Court Supervision Is Not a Realistic Alternative to Mandatory Minimum Sentences. ” Mandatory Minimum Sentencing. Ed. Margaret Haerens. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from “The Drug Court Fraud. ” Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, 2007. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. Document URL http://ic. galegroup. com. ezp. mc. maricopa. edu/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow? ailOverType=&query=&prodId=OVIC&windowstate=normal&contentModules=&mode=view&displayGroupName=Viewpoints&limiter=&currPage=&disableHighlighting=false&displayGroups=&sortBy=&source=&search_within_results=&action=e&catId=&activityType=&scanId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010649227&userGroupName=mcc_mesa&jsid=2cce057a0f62ec881b7c6dd533235187 Gale Document Number: GALE|EJ3010649227 Taylor, Stuart. “Nonviolent Drug Offenders Do Not Belong in Prison. ” Prisons. Ed. James Haley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005.

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