A Delaware court is taking a new approach to dealing with heroine addiction – sentencing those that have committed drug-related crimes to a treatment program rather than a stretch behind bars.
The Delaware Daily Times writes that authorities in Montgomery County have established an innovative new Drug Court Program, designed to tackle the problems of heroin addiction through treatment rather than prison. Offenders brought before the court can be sentenced to intense rehabilitation and treatment programs which, if completed successfully, can lead to any charges being quashed.
The Program runs for a minimum of 15 months, with some addicts participating for up to three years from their referral. It is not compulsory, but statistics show a growing number of those offered treatment are choosing and completing that option.
Those that participate receive treatment alongside encouragement and support to transition back into normal society. With over 53% of prisoners reoffending on release from prison, the program is expected to improve the rate of recurring crime while building better lives for the addicts involved.
“The treatment process is kept under close review by the courts, and a panel of medical, legal and probation representatives meet to discuss progress on a regular basis. A large, large number of economic crimes can be prevented by treating people and helping them find their way to sobriety,” said one representative of the program, which focuses specifically on achieving reduced rates of reoffending and rehabilitation.
The courts offer the program as an alternative to incarceration and supervision orders. Unlike private rehab treatments, which will only be funded so far by insurance providers, treatment is offered on an inpatient basis for as long as it takes to return the offender to a drug-free, clean lifestyle. The final phase involves a supported transition back into daily life, meaning treatment and support for the addict at every step.
It’s a radical approach, and one many addiction professionals are seeing as an encouraging step. The Valley Hope Association, which operates drug recovery centers nationwide, said that new approaches like this could make a real difference to reoffending and help addicts get better.
“Treating addicts through the jail system can be a disruptive and unhelpful approach. Recognizing addiction as an illness and treating it as a health issue can remove the threat of reoffending altogether, and provide addicts with a better chance of rebuilding their lives.”
It’s not only the victims of crime and their families that suffer from ill-advised drug policy. The addicts themselves suffer, in addition to the whole of society in absorbing the costs of crime, punishment and treatment.
While prisons can provide rehabilitation and support for drug and alcohol dependency, they can create additional social problems for addicts. Isolation from support networks on the outside and underlying health and addiction problems can quickly lead to a spiral of reoffending with a very human cost.
Treatment and rehabilitation are proven to be more effective than straight punishment. Statistics from Sweden and Denmark, where this type of treatment program is more common, show that these schemes have a net positive effect on both addiction and reoffending rates. With Delaware blazing the trail, there’s no reason we can’t be next to see these improvements.