Alternative Sentencing Treatment Programs for Drug Offenders

Alternative Sentencing Treatment Programs for Drug Offenders

Drug addiction is often related to criminal activity. An individual suffering from addiction may be forced to commit crimes like stealing, physical harassment, and self-harming. Drug dependency compels an individual to partake in dangerous or risky behavior they would never normally consider. 

They usually act out of a sheer craving for the addictive substance. This is where alternative sentencing programs come in as a modern form of treatment for individuals suffering from addiction.

What are Alternative Sentencing Programs?

An alternative sentencing program is a way to provide treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration. A person can commit several crimes because of their substance addiction and physical need for a fix. This may lead the person to commit violent and non-violent crimes like selling drugs, and stealing, to hide their addiction.

Sentencing drug offenders to long prison terms doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, studies have shown that drug offenders repeat their actions soon after they have been released from incarceration. This is because the underlying mental, emotional, or physical problems that caused the addiction in the first place are still present. 

Alternative sentencing programs are a cost-effective alternative to helps people get the help they need to become productive members of society.

Treatment alternatives to an incarceration program are a way of rehabilitation for individuals suffering from addiction instead of punishment. In the process, the victim gets the required treatment to overcome the addiction and return to normal life. 

Without proper treatment for the disease, in most cases, the cycle cannot be broken. Moreover, this also allows the person a second chance at life without the stigma of incarceration.

Do Alternative Sentencing Programs Work Better Than Incarceration?

These programs are conducted on the belief that treatment can significantly improve a person’s life and help them become a productive member of society again. Alternative sentencing recognizes the power of addiction and the need for treatment instead of punishment. This approach gives the individual the tools they need to overcome their addiction.

Alternative sentencing is considered a medical rehabilitation for offenders. The procedure of treatment in these programs depends on the nature of the crime committed and the health condition of the individual. Here are some common ways in which alternative sentencing programs work.

Mandatory Stay

The court makes it mandatory for the person to stay in rehabilitation during the entire duration of the treatment. This ensures the victim recovers completely before being released. The treatment involves a series of procedures and also includes periodic testing. 

In fact, periodic drug testing continues for a determined period of time after completion of the treatment too. If the person refuses to stay in the rehabilitation center or undergo the treatment, he or she will be arrested and sent back to prison.

Law Approved Recovery Programs

Treatment alternatives to an incarceration program are always approved by law or a judge. This is done under the supervision of medical experts who prescribe the program according to the age, health condition, and severity of the crime of the drug offender. Generally, no change to the law-approved plan is done by the rehabilitation center.

Medically Supervised Therapies

All forms of therapies or treatments that the drug addict undergoes are supervised by an experienced medical team. They tirelessly work to take care of the patient and put them on the road to recovery. The focus of the treatment is based on overcoming the addiction and preventing relapse. These treatments can be personalized therapies, private detoxification sessions, psychological analysis, etc.

Skill Development

Drug addiction affects mental health. This leads to acute depression, trauma, anxiety, and mood swings. Moreover, societal stigma and fear of incarceration has a detrimental impact on the mental health of an individual. In the process, the person may lose a certain skill set that he or she was once very good at. A hobby or passion can help the person return to normal life faster.

Rehabilitation programs work on developing these skills with individuals. The aim is to bring back their passion into something they enjoyed doing earlier but has been lost due to addiction.

Addiction Awareness

The statistics of drug misuse shows that younger people are more likely to fall victim to this addiction. The primary reason being the lack of education on drug addiction. 

Sometimes young men and women become victims of drug use disorder under peer pressure or because of a desperate need to feel included in a group. Some may have never intended to be addicted but have been trapped because they wanted to try it for fun.

Drug education is necessary to break the taboos and stigma associated with addiction in society. This type of awareness saves people from addiction and allows them to seek treatment sooner.

Personal Counseling

Drug addiction can cause several personality disorders in addicts. Drug use over a longer period can result in behavioral changes like aggression, trauma, panic attacks, and even anti-social mentality.

Alternative sentencing programs offer personalized counseling to people based on their mental health and behavioral traits. This not only helps the person to recover faster but also prevents relapsing in the future.

Duration of Treatment

Treatment alternatives to an incarceration program can continue for a short-term or long-term period. The duration of treatment may range from one month to about a year. The duration mainly depends on the type of addiction and the nature of the crime that has been committed.

The duration of rehabilitation treatment is determined by the sentencing guidelines from the state or the individual judge with input from medical professionals. Depending on the severity of the addiction, the treatment can be a personalized outpatient session or a private inpatient facility at a rehabilitation center.

Eligibility Criteria for Alternative Sentencing Programs

Treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration have been a huge success in reducing crime rates along with the rate of incarceration. These programs have been paramount in allowing addicts to become functional family members, good employees, and strong members of the community.

Unfortunately, every person convicted of a drug offense cannot qualify for alternative sentencing programs. It depends on several factors that are based on laws and the person’s chances of recovery. Here are the eligibility criteria for alternative sentencing programs.

Nature of Crime

If the drug offense is a non-violent one like possession of drugs, selling of drugs, etc. then in many cases the individual can be considered eligible for alternative sentencing programs. 

For serious crimes like theft, physical assault, etc. it may be difficult to get a nod from the judiciary for sentencing alternatives. Also, younger adults stand a better chance to be considered for rehabilitation programs rather than incarceration.

Criminal Record

People with no previous criminal record have the best chance of qualifying for alternative sentencing. This demonstrates that the person likely committed the crime because of their addiction. These first-time offenders are often given a second chance through alternative sentencing programs.

Demonstration of Benefits

The person must demonstrate to the judge the benefit of rehabilitation treatment to be eligible for alternative sentencing. Many times, the court is open to the person’s point of view and how their life could be changed for the better by treatment instead of prison. If the benefit is reasonable, often the judge will recommend alternative sentencing for the individual.

Qualify Mental Health Evaluation

A person needs to have a mental evaluation from a medical professional to qualify in many cases. This evaluation will be based on the nature of the crime committed by the individual and his or her severity of the addiction. Once the mental health evaluation has been qualified, the court may consider the person eligible for alternative sentencing programs.

Willingness to Recover

The individual must demonstrate his or her willingness to live a drug-free life. It is the dedication to change to be a better person that matters to the court. If the person’s plea shows his willingness to recover and return to a clean sober life, the judiciary might consider them for alternative sentencing programs.

Types of Alternative Sentencing Programs

There are different treatment alternatives to an incarceration program under the criminal justice system. These programs can be broadly divided into three categories. They are limiting entry alternatives, alternatives to incarceration, and post-sentencing alternatives.

Limiting Entry Alternatives

These alternatives constitute certain criteria that limit the entry of the offender in the criminal justice system. This involves the removal of certain conduct from criminal law to avoid sentencing as a punishment. The other criteria are reducing the penalty of certain conduct as a minor offense and enforcing law towards rehabilitative measures rather than incarceration.

Alternatives to Incarceration

This takes place during the proceedings of the court. Usually, the sentence is stayed or modified to include a treatment program as an alternative to incarceration.

Post Sentencing Alternatives

It is a procedure of substituting or reducing the period of incarceration for alternative sentencing programs. It applies to drug offenders who have already been sentenced to incarceration but are good candidates for treatment programs.

Find Out More Information

Alternative sentencing programs have successfully reduced drug abuse and crime rates. This has allowed more people to pursue the path of recovery to a sober clean life. With more considerations for treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration, rehabilitation centers are hopeful to give a second chance and help them become functional family members, good employees, and productive members of the community again. For more information, contact us today. 

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.