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People with drug addiction need treatment, not incarceration

People with drug addiction need treatment, not incarceration

Earlier this year, law enforcement officers entered a woman’s Pennsylvania home with a warrant, suspecting that she had been involved in selling drugs. According to Penn Live, the search resulted in charges of marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. Instead of putting the woman in prison, a judge decided to sentence her to probation as well as a court-ordered drug treatment program.

People who struggle with drug addiction here in Minnesota and across the country need rehabilitation, not incarceration. Recent reports reflect that treatment programs are often more effective.

The advantages of rehabilitation

One of the reasons rehabilitation is so important is that an addiction will not go away simply because a user is incarcerated. There are often underlying issues that cause a person to begin experimenting with drugs. Left untreated, people will still struggle with anxiety, depression or other matters that can cause problems upon their release from prison.

There are many reasons that several states, including Minnesota, have begun to use drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration, such as the following:

  • It is more cost effective – It is cheaper to put people through rehabilitation than it is to put them in jail.
  • It addresses factors that contribute to crime with the intention of driving down criminal activity.
  • It enables those arrested on charges of drug possession or other drug-related crimes aim to establish a healthy lifestyle for the future.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 2 million people in jail have used illicit drugs. What’s more, 33 percent of jail inmates were using drugs at the time of their offense.  Lastly, of the estimated 800,000 people in jail who needed substance abuse treatment, the CDC says that less than one-third receive it.

Gaining support

The Pew Research Center released a report stating that the majority of Americans prefer to help drug addicts through providing treatment. Only 26 percent of those polled thought that the U.S. government should prosecute addicts for drug crimes.

Minnesota currently has mandatory sentences for people convicted of a felony-level controlled substance crime, ranging from minimums of six months to four years in prison. However, the state has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country due to its commitment to rehabilitating low-level drug offenders, according to the StarTribune. Additionally, the national government has been working to prevent prosecutors from charging nonviolent offenders with crimes that carry minimum prison sentences.

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