A battle is going on in our country about the best way to manage the never-ending drug problem. On the one side we have those that want stiffer punishments and more law enforcement dedicated to stopping drug criminals. On the other side, there are those that see treatment as the way to stop the cycle of drug abuse and prison time.
Treatment for Offenders
Providing better treatment for drug offenders is beneficial for many reasons. It saves money in the long run because it is much less expensive to treat an individual and teach them to be self-sustaining than it is to keep putting them in prison. There are many people in the prison system that have substance abuse problems, and if we have the ability to help them stay out of prison, we should do it.
Challenges to Increasing Funding for Treatment
But those pushing for more funding for treatment are facing an uphill battle. First of all, it is hard to convince people to allocate the funds for treatment when it means taking some away from law enforcement. Even if it will save millions of dollars in the end, making that transition is going to be difficult in the first place. Secondly, there is very little evaluation in place for drug treatment programs. If we are going to spend money on treatment rather than prison time, we need to know that these drug addicts are going to get real help, be part of an effective program, and have the best chance at succeeding. In order to do this, a complete overhaul of the evaluation process might be necessary, so that funds can be allocated toward facilities and types of programs that really work.
Even if our country sets up a great system of treating drug criminals instead of sending them to prison, we will still have to face the fact that some offenders aren’t ready to get clean, and they won’t put in the effort to do it. There are some drug addicts that would rather stay in prison rather than go through treatment. We need to have programs put in place for these individuals so that they are not going through the motions of treatment just to turn right back to drugs once they are out.
The Decision of Treatment vs. Prison
Some individual states are making the decision for themselves about how to handle the treatment vs. prison controversy. California has cut most of its funding for treatment, while New York has allocated $50 million toward treatment. Many people are hoping that the new deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Tom McLellan, will bring about better treatment opportunities. McLellan, a treatment expert, believes in expanding treatment, to some extent, which gives hope to many that want to put an end to the cycle of drug addicts going to prison.