Rehabilitation over jail time
Governor Jerry Brown recently denied a bill that would allow charges such as simple drug possession to be treated as a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony.
Around 10,000 people a year are convicted of drug possession felonies in California alone, yet the passing of this bill could have reduced prison and jail overcrowding in California. As of now, California prisons remain overcrowded and the cost of imprisonment is about $207 million a year.
Thirteen other states have already passed this law, and Brown has ignored these facts. If this bill had passed, it would have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in criminal justice savings. For example, an offender would have to go to a preliminary hearing instead of being outright convicted.
This could have provided local governments with enough money to invest in drug rehabilitation programs and mental health services. It could have also helped law enforcement being able to focus on more serious cases instead of dealing with petty crimes.
Currently, the law issues up to three years of prison, even for the smallest amount of drugs for personal use. Instead of jail time, it could be beneficial for these offenders to be sent to a place of rehabilitation instead of being in a prison where they will most likely relapse when they are released from jail.
Two-thirds of prisoners relapse within three years of leaving prison, and sometimes commit a much more serious and violent offense. It is important as to how we treat these people because it could cause them to do much more serious harm to their lives.
According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, the U.S. has
the highest number of inmates in the world, topping every other nation.
Prison wont cure the addiction of meth, heroine, cocaine, or other dangerous drugs. It will just make them crave it more once they are out of the slammer. Just like hundreds and thousands of other drug users, they will replay their mistakes and go back to jail as a repeat offender.
These people need a chance to recover and become a productive member of society and that is possible with rehabilitation centers. This would cost the government a small fraction of what it costs to keep them incarcerated. Treating these individuals would also be less expensive to the taxpayer. The disease of drug addiction is very difficult to overcome without the proper help.
The decriminalization of drugs could also benefit these people. The use of drugs and drug possessions could be treated as a citation as opposed to a charge. Drugs would still be illegal, but this would not lead to a criminal conviction. Convictions effect offenders from obtaining employment, housing, government benefits and lots of other things.
Each year in the United States, there are around 1.5 million drug arrests. More than 80 percent of these arrests are simply from nonviolent cases of drug possession.
According to an analysis in 2010 of the U.S. Justice department data, in the 13
states where simple drug possession is labeled as a misdemeanor, drug
offenders are most likely to get treatment and slightly less likely to
use illegal drugs again.
This shows that decriminalization could reduce this number and help people overcome the use of drugs and possibly decrease the number of drug possessions.
A handful of states and countries have already adopted this practice. So then why can’t the U.S do it as well? It is much less harmful and less expensive to present someone with a one-way ticket to treatment than it is to send them to jail where most of the population of offenders are.
The results of that analysis are exactly why rehabilitation and drug
decriminalization would be beneficial to the society as opposed to a
harsh imprisonment in jail. If Brown would have passed this bill, drug offenders would probably use drugs less than if they were sentenced to jail time.
Unfortunately, the State of California might have to wait for Brown to jump onto the bandwagon.