Treatment is better than Incarceration for Offenders Essay

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In addressing the problem of drug-related crimes, the government and its criminal justice system are inclined to favor treating the users and the offenders over incarcerating them. This is because of the many proven and advantageous impacts of treating the offenders rather than locking them up in jail. To present the positive effects of treatment, this paper discusses the various studies or researches that had proven the goodness of treatment and that it is the better way of solving crimes that are committed by drug users or drug dependents. A literature review or analysis of the several studies was employed to determine the methods done by the research, what were the main findings, and how they helped and are related to the issue.

Treatment is better than Incarceration for Offenders

A lot of crimes have been attributed to drug dependence. However, in an effort to stop this problem, it is unfortunate to note that offenders of drug-related crimes are incarcerated rather than treated for the factors that contributed to their addiction. It is not realized that in sending back untreated drug addicts into their respective communities, they just go back to their old circle of friends who may have influenced and led them to drugs and dangerous habits as they continue to violate the law. Meanwhile, many drug dependents who are subjected to the criminal justice system are able to complete the treatment or rehabilitation programs.

They later join aftercare attention and do not further engage in other crimes. In contrast, majority of offenders, who are compulsory jailed but not treated, violate again the law and eventually return to drug addiction immediately after release from prison. For this reason, treatment and recovery from drug addiction is significantly favored over locking up an offender in jail. In view, therefore, of the apparent advantages and good effects of drug treatment programs, both for the users or offenders as well as it many benefits to the community and nation in general, it can be said that treatment is definitely better that incarceration.

            Treatment is the primary purpose of drug courts, organizations, and other drug rehabilitation-related facilities. These institutions relatively reduce backsliding among the offenders. Their treatments result in cost-savings, and they are the ones most effective with dealing with non-violent as well as highly dangerous offenders. Their fundamental premise is to take advantage of the authority of the justice system with regards to drug-related crimes and to treat, not jail, the offenders. This is also to acknowledge that the road to recovery is possibly faced with lapses and relapses. However, the longer an offender is treated the better chance for him or her to recuperate and never return to the destructive vice.

            According to a survey supported by the Open City Institute Survey, recent improvements in the criminal justice system indicate the growing preference of national movement to treat as opposed to incarcerate passive drug-related offenders. The movement that favors treatment includes drug courts, local authorities and nationwide enterprises that direct passive drug offenders to care and rehabilitation rather than send them to prison.

The 2002 Open City Institute Survey entitled Changing Public Attitudes Towards the Criminal Justice System, reported that 63 percent of Americans considered drug abuse a problem that should be addressed primarily through counseling and treatment rather than the criminal justice system (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). Thus, this implies that the preference on treatment over incarceration has acquired a significant attention in the United States with the growing public support to help rather than punish offenders who are drug dependents.

            The survey was an offshoot of the passing in November of 2000 of what is called the Proposition 36 or the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 (SACPA) (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). This Act started the requirement of treating, rather than incarcerating, the passive offenders who are involved in drug possession-related crimes. SACPA necessitates that the offenders are provided the chance to get community-based drug rehabilitation instead of putting them behind bars (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). As cited from the Open City Institute Survey, over 36,000 individuals have received treatment from SACPA annually since the onset of said program in 2001 (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). For its first six years, around 70,000 participants have undergone the programs (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008).

More than 19,000 participants are treated yearly for their dependence to methamphetamine (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). This made SACPA the biggest and most productive methamphetamine rehabilitation plan in the United States. Those who have graduated from the methamphetamine rehabilitation plan actually perform and emerge as better persons compared to the whole SACPA graduates. This success made community members and legislators to realize that methamphetamine dependence was actually treatable (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). With the implementation of SACPA, many drug dependents were saved from a delinquent way of life.

            In addition, the said survey was able to confirm that the treatment program has resulted in savings of taxpayers money. The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), which appraised SACPA, later figured out that the program has brought about a savings of around $2.50 for every $1 spent. UCLA added that the savings was raised to $4 per $1 spent for those who have completed the program.

The survey also revealed the report of the Legislative Analysts Office (LAO) which said that the net savings have reached $200 million to $300 million per year”or a total of $1.2-1.8 billion for the first six years of implementation. The UCLA study has proven further that essential improvements are needed by the SACPA such as co-location of services, expanded access to narcotic replacement therapy, and better case management (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). Hence, not only the SACPA aids drug dependents to get their life back, the Act also positively contributes to the countrys budget through the savings brought by the program.

            In corroborating the fact that treating, rather than punishing, offenders actually saves money, the 2002 survey was followed by the enactment of the Marylands treatment law in 2004. The Maryland law required a lot of non-violent offenders to do community-based drug rehabilitation that resulted in the savings of the taxpayers money in million of dollars. The savings, brought about by the successful law, produced the Maryland Substance Abuse Fund as a unique fund that is particularly utilized for supporting the offenders. The said law also led to the creation of drug abuse councils in every county. The law further permitted the offenders to be paroled and allowed the possible removal of charges against the prisoners who have finished the rehabilitation program (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). The Maryland Law is only one of the measures that have proven the effectivity of treatment programs to offenders and the savings that it brought to the nations coffer.

            Accordingly, the aforementioned survey has also caused the bill Measure 62 to be passed on November 2002 in Washington, D.C. with a 78 percent approval. Measure 62 required the state to treat rather than convict the passive offenders involved in illegal possession or drug use, put up a program for treatment of persons subjected to drug abuse rehabilitation, and allow for dismissal of charges against the offender who have completed the rehabilitation plan (Drug Policy Alliance, 2008). Through these laws enacted in Maryland and Washington D.C., the effectiveness of rehabilitating passive offenders who are drug dependent was shown, and has paved the way for a new life for them.

            The Justice Policy Institute Survey sums up the policy outline and findings of several studies made by national criminal justice agencies and entities. In their review and analysis, authors McVay, Schiraldi, and Ziedenberg (2004) found benefits or advantages of treating, instead of incarcerating, the offenders. The authors discovered that rehabilitation may be less expensive than handing down a jail term. Treating, rather than punishing offenders with a prison term, is a less expensive preference. This is because rehabilitation, in lieu of incarceration, actually saves the states budget such as that in Maryland (McVay, Schiraldi & Ziedenberg, 2004). The cited survey is a definite manifestation of the economic advantage of treatment over incarceration. By saving of the communitys budget, the opportunity to utilize one nations treasury to other services was also increased.

            Citing the summary made by the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Justice Sentencing Policy, authors Lavine, Lozowski, Powell, Sivillo and Traeger (2001) reported that Maryland preferred treatment with its programs that centered on back-end or exit treatments. The first treatment program means that the offender undergoes rehabilitation after serving some jail term while the Community Options Programs or COP is the example of the exit treatment.

The COP is composed of controlled rehabilitation facilities for the offenders, regular or daily reporting, strict treatment management, house arrest and progressive punishments for non-achievement of the treatment program. In analyzing the general benefit of the said programs, Lavine, Lozowski, Powell, Sivillo and Traeger (2001) cited the Sentencing Commission which said that Marylands use of alternative sanctions has reduced the annual cost to house an offender from $20,000 to $4,000 (Lavine, Lozowski, Powell, Sivillo & Traeger, 2001). This showed that the implementation of different manners of treating the offenders proved to be more effective and cost-saving.

            The said article further asserts that it is imperative for the government to realize the immediate and extensive positive effect of funding a treatment program (Lavine, Lozowski, Powell, Sivillo & Traeger, 2001). This is because inadequate funding causes the authorities to choose the option of just sending the drug offender to jail. The funding should be complemented by a correct management of the program as well as effective and reliable rehabilitation personnel. When achieved, this practice proves to be effective and less expensive than sentencing an offender with a prison term (Lavine, Lozowski, Powell, Sivillo & Traeger, 2001). This goes to say that the effectivity of treatment programs depends on their efficient management and funding.

            Aos and colleagues (2001) also affirmed the cost-effectivity of treating offenders as reported in the cost-benefit findings of the Washington State Institute for Public Police or WSIPP. Through a cost-benefit analysis, the authors were able to compare the impact of money exhausted on rehabilitation options versus the money spent in jail facilities in relation to crime statistics and other benefits to the community such as job opportunities and tax incomes.

Results of their analysis show that based on per dollar spent, treatment effectively cuts down the cost of drug abuse that is charged to the society, as compared to incarceration. The WSIPP-sponsored report made also discloses the cost-effectivity of the rehabilitation program as measured according to taxpayers by program costs, drop in crime statistics and less relapses. The report also mentioned the monetary benefits from non-prison rehabilitation programs which confirmed that preference of treatment over incarceration yielded important gains for every amount of money that is exhausted (Aos et al., 2001).  This benefit specification made by the WSIPP has just proven more the need to favor treatment over incarceration.

            Aos and co-authors concluded the study with a positive note. For the past two decades, the study was able to develop which is effective or doable and beneficial between treatment and incarceration. After considering the relative benefits of treatment to the economy of a nation, treatment can even modify the allotment of assets of the country. Treatment program, complemented with such estimates, can help government leaders and the lawmakers in guiding the nations assets towards successful and effective rehabilitation programs rather than failed treatment plans. This, in effect, leads to an overall benefit to the taxpayers (Aos et al, 2001). Hence, the article by Aos and company, along with the studies cited above, prove the cost-effectiveness of treatment programs and their positive impact not only to crime rates, but also to the offenders themselves.

            Another corroboration of the above preference to treatment was mentioned in the National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study: Final Report, March 1997 authored by Gerstein and co-authors for The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, with the help of Jordan and associates for the Research Triangle Institute (1997). According to the report, treatment, as compared to incarceration, cuts down cases of drug abuse and dependence as well as a relapse by the offender. This is possible while creating a community that is conducive both for the offender and rehabilitation personnel at the same time to implement an effective and cost-saving treatment program (Gerstein et al. & Jordan et al, 1997). Hence, this study shows that the community, aside from the offenders themselves, also benefit from treatment programs.

            The said report was based on another final report made by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatments or CSATs, which similarly stated that rehabilitation, aside from the monetary savings and effectivity of treatment program, definitely works better in reducing drug abuse. The CSATs final report specifically said that in summary, we observed a pattern of substantially reduced alcohol and drug use in every type of treatment modality, with reductions typically between one-third and two-thirds depending on the type of service unit and the specific measure (Gerstein et al & Jordan et al, 1997, p. 236). Therefore, rehabilitation also contributes to the decline of substance use among offenders.

            Ehrlich, Jr., Sabatini and Luongo (2002), authors of the Outlook and Outcomes in Maryland Substance Abuse Treatment: Fiscal Year 2002 reported that offenders who have successfully completed treatment programs, which are funded by Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration or ADAA, had manifested a lowered drug use or abuse percentage as compared when they were previously admitted it the program. This success in rehabilitation, as proven by a reduced drug use, is attributed to the offenders completion of the treatment program and their length of stay in program.

According to Ehrlich, Jr., Sabatini and Luongo, between 40 % and 50 % of ADAA program admissions successfully completed their treatment programs. Offenders, who have completed the treatment and have been eventually discharged from the program, are likely to do a small or minimal number of crimes, as proven by a significant decrease in arrest statistics that was found by comparing the number of arrests at least two years before treatment. It was discovered that the arrest statistics were relatively lower as compared to the cases of arrests two years prior to the treatment (Ehrlich, Jr., Sabatini & Luongo, 2002). This shows how significant the contribution of the treatment programs is to the decline of substance-related crimes.

            An analysis of Brooklyns Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison Program or DTAP, which is funded by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse or CASA at Columbia University, revealed that offenders who have pleaded guilty to drug-related crimes and are eventually admitted to a residential, therapeutic community treatment system in lieu of a jail term, likewise manifested a reduced arrest statistics after their release from the program. This is because half of DTAP subjects, who graduated from the treatment program, had a sustained and longer treatment as compared to offenders being rehabilitated in long-term drug rehabilitation facility in the country (Crossing the Bridge¦, 2003). Comparatively, DTAP graduates are more rehabilitated than those that were given jail terms.

            The paper, entitled Crossing the Bridge: An Evaluation of the Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison (DTAP) Program, further states that aside from a decreased substance addiction or dependence, a lot of the features of the rehabilitation program are focused on community builders and ways on how to assist offenders face challenges as well as become productive members of their respective families and communities. The same report added that the offenders who completed the DTAP program have increased the likelihood of becoming employed to nearly four times prior arrest (Crossing the Bridge¦, 2003).

In fact, almost 95% had a work following the DTAP program (Crossing the Bridge¦, 2003). CASA, in turn, has referred DTAP as an example of an effective and less expensive treatment program and demonstrated what the authorities can carry out in order to lower the number of offenders in the countrys jail facilities. Finally, the evaluation disclosed that minimizing substance abuse is crucial in decreasing crime, the number of prisoners, and the huge amount of relative costs (Crossing the Bridge¦, 2003). Ultimately, offenders that are subjected to treatment programs emerged as better persons.

            The DTAP Program was also cited by Gerstein and company as well as Jordan and associates (1997) who, in comparing offenders subjected to the DTAP Program with offenders subjected to incarceration that who were both released from the treatment facility and prison, respectively, learned that that first group of offenders posed an arrest rates that were 26 percent lower than the second type of offenders. In turn, DTAP graduates are 67% less likely to have a relapse and be subjected to another treatment as compared to those who had left the group who left prison (Gerstein et al & Jordan et al, 1997). These relapses and higher rate of arrests showed the risk of just incarcerating offenders instead of subjecting them to treatment.

            In support of the above premise that treatment is more effective and results into savings, Taxman, Reedy, Moline, Ormond and Yancey (2003) mentioned promising drug treatment samples in Maryland and in other parts of the United States. One of these samples includes the Marylands pilot program called the Break The Cycle. It is a type of rehabilitation program that is characterized by an extensive trial period emphasizing on drug rehabilitation, drug experimentation, and punishments.

According to Taxman and others, the said Maryland treatment program places offenders into a four-year treatment-related study that has been proven to successfully and effectively inspire participants to manifest development. The program generally counts on its drug testing and a progressive plan of action when it comes to the punishments given to the participants (Taxman, Reedy, Moline, Ormond & Yancey, 2003). This is another program which demonstrates how a prolonged and well-planned treatment would benefit the offenders.

            Taxman and company stated that under the Break the Cycle sample, [d]rug testing is a tool used to monitor frequent drug use (Taxman et al., 2003). The scheme of the treatment program utilizes bi-weekly drug testing within one year to discover any unlawful substance use or drug addiction. Thereafter, it is gradually reduced after assuming that drug testing turns out to be negative. However, the drug testing is escalated if a participant yields a positive result. Taxman and company explained that drug testing is used as a tool during the supervision tenure to have a sustained period of external control (Taxman, Reedy, Moline, Ormond & Yancey, 2003). Thus, by subjecting the participants to drug testing, the organizers of the program would be able to determine the effectivity of the treatment program.

            The authors final report, entitled Strategies for the Drug-Involved Offender: Testing, Treatment, Sanctions (BTC) and Offender Outcomes After 4 Years of Implementation, as mentioned the in the previous paragraph, concludes that the program was significantly effective in lowering down the number of offenders relapse. According to Taxman and associates, in the last four years, the BTC demonstration has shown that a systemic drug testing protocol can have an impact on the addict population in terms of reducing substance abuse and recidivism.

Moreover, its researchers discovered a particular problem relating to the implementation of the Break The Cycle Program in Maryland which required a simple solution. The problem is that offenders who are subjected to court trial proceedings are not typically measured for drug abuse or drug addiction before they were meted with the jail term. This is primarily because of inadequate or few resources that appraise an offender before he or she is sentenced or eventually discharged from incarceration (Taxman, Reedy, Moline, Ormond & Yancey, 2003). Thus, due to the limitations of the program, it is important to revise the methods used in the program for higher effectivity.

            The said report added that court trial judges and other concerned authorities are inclined to only depend on the personal report of the offenders. The cited problem results in uncalled-for assignment of some offenders who are non-addicted drug users to treatment programs or facilities. Meanwhile, others are subjected to less effective manners of rehabilitation which should not be the case. The report further emphasized that directing resources toward pre-trial substance abuse assessments will save time, money and other resources.

Finally, the report noted that after engagement in a treatment program such as the Break The Cycle Program in Maryland, offenders, who initially are defiant to the rehabilitation, eventually manifested a significant development and emerged as better persons upon release from the facility. The authors attributed this improvement to participation as the primary component of drug treatment (Taxman, Reedy, Moline, Ormond & Yancey, 2003). This implies that willingness to cooperate and to change on the part of the offenders should be taken in consideration. To achieve this, it is important for the government and the proponents of the treatment program to instill inspiration among passive offenders involved in substance-related crimes to change for the better.

            Providing an equal treatment opportunity for the opposite sex, the National Institute of Justice said that women offenders, who are also involved in drug-related crimes, typically require a lot of treatment approaches which they will need when they return to their respective communities after a stint in a facility or cell. Utilizing the results of the Institute-funded study, the Delaware Criminal Justice Council measured the gender suitability of two remedial community drug treatment programs. These are the KEY program at Baylor Womens Correctional Institute and CREST, a work release program at Sussex Correctional Institute (Reentry Programs for Women Inmates, 2005).

 The said journal article showed the disadvantages resulting from incarcerating women offenders which cause the need for the said two re-entry treatment programs. One result of the program is that women, who participated in community residential rehabilitation, are inclined to have or undergo a follow-up treatment or aftercare program (Reentry Programs for Women Inmates, 2005). Similarly, women offenders also benefit from treatment programs such as the two cited courses.

            Thus, the need of women for greater and more effective treatment programs is affirmed because of the fact that the appropriateness of gender-neutral treatment program has been scrutinized in correctional facilities. According to Quina (2000), the growing number of women inmates could not cope with the difficult implementation of treatment programs by the criminal justice system where its policies and procedures that¦[were] designed for male offenders (Quina, 2000). This shows that, although both men and women offenders need treatment, there would always be a difference in the manner on how they will be rehabilitated.

            Greater treatment needs of women are also emphasized by Grella and Greenwell (2007) who said that intervention are essential to enable women offenders to participate in community treatment programs after their prison term. These, in effect, will prolong their stay, improve their chances of being rehabilitated and lessen the eventuality of relapse (Grella & Greenwell, 2007). Hence, this matter needs to be studied more in detail in order to create and design treatment programs that are more appropriate for female offenders for a more favorable outcome.

            Based on Seaths article, a critical analysis of the importance of treatment over incarceration reveals that there is certainly a need to stop the policy of putting an offender in jail. This is for the reason that incarceration just increases the cost charged to the government. With a goal to lessen, if not prevent, drug-related crimes, treatment and not incarceration of offenders must be emphasized and prioritized. The above-cited studies indicated that drug rehabilitation programs are actually more effective, result in savings by the government, and eventually decrease the overall cost to the community. Seath finally noted that in the event that public perception is changed and become more open to the benefits of treatment, an active treatment policy by the government can become an effective approach to attain sustained positive effects (Seath). Basically, a flexible perception by the public and the actual plan of action by the government would make a treatment program succeed.

            The utilization of recent legislative events affirms the importance of favoring treatment over incarceration. An example of this is cited in an article by Henderson (2007) which states that the Hawaii State Legislature now considers measures that would affect the criminal justice system. In particular, Henderson reported that a treatment prison is now being taken into consideration, aside from the plans to escalate the funding for existing treatment programs. However, Henderson trusted that the only concrete drug treatment programs are those services that are immediately sensitive to the behavioral and developmental needs of the offenders involved in drug-related crimes.

Henderson (2007) further believed that an effective application of the treatment programs is to make the offenders responsible for their behavior and actions during and after the treatment program. This is because such accountability will, in turn, become an important component in their rehabilitation or eventual recovery. Furthermore, responses to eventualities, such as an offenders relapse or continued drug addiction, should be clearly determined so that it can be prevented (Henderson, 2007). Measures that address the significant need for treatment programs are the manifestations of the practical application of this issue.

            The support for treatment over incarceration was actually manifested in an expression of support recently provided by two California legislative subcommittees when they opposed the plan by Governor Schwarzenegger to cut funding for Proposition 36 or the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 (SACPA) which is an enacted measure favoring treatment program instead of incarceration for offenders (California Legislators Show Support¦, 2007). It could be recalled that SACPA required that drug rehabilitation be made available to a lot of passive offenders. Since its enactment, it has resulted in savings of taxpayers money which has amounted to more than $1.7 billion (California Legislators Show Support¦, 2007).

As a reflection of support for the 2000 Act, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee expressed to retain the existing funding flat at $145 million while the Senate Budget Subcommittee voted for an additional funding that will make it to $180 million (California Legislators Show Support¦, 2007). This decision by lawmakers for additional funding is based on the recommendation of treatment program providers who emphasized the need for additional resources (California Legislators Show Support¦, 2007). This only proves the sensitivity of legislators and government leaders in addressing the funding requirement of treatment programs.

            In emphasizing that treatment is better that incarceration, Chornenky (2006) said that the existing drug policy just increases the burden of the current criminal justice system by sending offenders into jail which can better accommodate hardened criminals. In fact, the country can gain a whole lat more because of the effectivity and cost savings brought by the treatment programs. Moreover, the offenders themselves essentially become the beneficiaries of the existing rehabilitation programs (Chornenky, 2006). Evidently, both the offenders and the country benefit from choosing treatment over incarceration.

In view of the above studies and arguments, it can be concluded that the effective option is to treat rather than incarcerate offenders. It is now time for an increased drug treatment. In so doing, it can change the publics perception and opinion of drug users and offenders. Thus, there is a need to an increased awareness on the benefits derived from drug treatment programs. Furthermore, government officials and lawmakers should also be encouraged to responsibly carry out and enact measures relating to treatment policy. Finally, the people must undertake treatment and not incarceration of offenders.


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