Is Rehabilitation an Alternative to Jail?

Treatment is a crucial part of helping people with substance use disorders understand their addiction and get the help they need. Offering drug-related offenders the option to attend rehabilitation is a great way to promote the recovery of those most at risk. People who have been detained often face two very different treatment centers: they can get the help they need in the community through a treatment program, or they can go to jail or prison, where treatment must be provided. It is important to understand the differences and similarities between these two addiction treatment centers.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, most possession sentences last longer than a year. When people enter the prison system, they are examined by a medical officer. This test helps staff understand the conditions for which the person needs treatment, as well as providing a level of protection for prison staff. People who are physically ill due to abstinence may lose their lives as brain cells and body cells adapt to the lack of substances they once took.

Without therapy, people can continue to consume in prison. When prison addiction programs are properly designed and implemented, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, they can generate staggering benefits. The agency says that people who leave these programs cause fewer problems while in prison and, when released, tend to avoid recidivism. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one type of therapy used in prisons that helps people change the way they think about the world, as well as the way they react to their world. This type of therapy can have a big impact on reducing relapses.

In a study on young people published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior, researchers found that addressing the specific needs of a person with treatment significantly reduced recidivism rates. Federal prisons may have more resources to provide care to prisoners than state facilities, as well as increased oversight from legislators and the wider community. Smaller installations may not experience this level of pressure. Unfortunately, addictions carry a lot of stigma and people don't always understand that addictions are formed because of chemical changes, not personal defects. Incarceration allows people with addictions to get away from their lives, pressures and habits. When they return home, they find their old lives, which may be tainted by abuse.

A person who has just been released from jail or prison may not consider this, and during a relapse, the person may take an old, familiar dose of a medication. That previous dose is too high for the newly healed body and an overdose may occur. People who know they must achieve sobriety or face some type of legal deterrence tend to take the treatment mandate seriously. However, that doesn't mean that treatment should be provided in a prison or jail. People in recovery are urged to look for ways to live healthy and active lives, and that remains true whether they are released from jail or from a formal treatment program. The NAACP reports that a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a job offer or a return of work by nearly 50%.

This means that people who are released from prison may struggle to get the work they need to support their families, and the pressure they might feel due to poverty could be a major trigger for a relapse. Financial problems could even push some people to return to selling drugs. While it may be interesting to compare treatment success in the community or in prison, people facing drug charges are often unable to choose treatment locations. They are accused, the courts make a decision and go where they are told to go. Going to jail can be a scary idea for anyone, and sometimes there's little or no time to prepare for the experience.

It is important for people with addictions who are facing long court cases and lengthy sentences to prepare physically and emotionally for incarceration. Prisons generally don't allow substances such as alcohol or drugs, so it is important for those facing incarceration not to take any last doses before entering prison.

Blanche Taboada
Blanche Taboada

Lifelong internet geek. Award-winning twitter fanatic. Award-winning bacon enthusiast. General zombie practitioner. Passionate zombie maven.