A Prosecution System that Prioritizes Drug Abuse Treatment to Offenses

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Most of the crimes, mostly property crimes are committed by drug abusers to solely feed their drug habit. These offenders end up in prison for the secondary crime, for example burglary or theft and not because of their primary vice, which is drug abuse. As Nestler (2014) provides, imprisoning offenders without addressing the underlying problem, which is drug abuse basically defers the time when their imprisonment sentence ends and they go back to the community, continue abusing drugs and committing crimes to feed their habit; the cycle of harming themselves and the society continues. Mitchell et al (2007) further stipulate that about 60-75% of untreated parolees who have a history of drug abuse normally go back to their drug abuse habits within 3 month after being released. This indicates the significance of implementing a prosecution system that separates drug abusers from common criminals and hence priorities treatment of drug abuse. This paper provides a discussion of various interventions that can be implemented within the prosecution system to ensure that the system prioritizes treatment of drug abuse over the crime they were arrested for.

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Treatment for Drug Abusers in the Criminal Justice System

Treatment for drug abusers within the criminal justice system can consist of interventions such as curative alternatives to imprisonment, treatment combined with judicial supervision within drug courts, jail-based treatments, as well as reentry programs aimed at assisting offenders in successful transition from imprisonment back into the society (Stevenson, 2011). The justice system can monitor, supervise and use legal sanctions to influence drugs abusers to get in and in treatment. Interventions that have been successfully used to address drug abuse problems include behavioral treatments. According to Chandler et al (2010) evidence-based interventions consist of cognitive treatments that edify coping and decision making skills, emergency management treatments that support behavioral changes allied to abstaining from drugs, as well as motivational treatments that improve motivation to take part in treatment and non-drug allied activities. Accordingly, it is recommendable for prosecution justice system to integrate residential treatment programs and create a therapeutic community for the offenders who are drug abusers (Mitchell et. al, (2007).

Implementing Drug Courts for Criminally Active Addicts

Drug courts focus on treating drug abuse as well as the allied criminal behavior by holding drug-involved criminals in drug treatment. While in drug courts, offenders are closely monitored; this significantly decreases their drug usage and reduces their criminal behavior as well (Stevenson, 2011). Defendants who successfully complete their drug court program have their criminal charges dropped or have their probation sentences are reduced. In addition, evidence indicates that drug courts have been effective in re-directing non-violent criminals with drug abuse problems into treatment and this hence this ensures that the criminal justice system only handles the violent criminal acts (Nestler, 2014). More importantly, drug treatment from offenders who are drug addicts has been shown to be extremely cost-effective. This is because this intervention provides the probability of lowering crime by around two-thirds at a significantly lower cost when compared to imprisonment because imprisonment of drug addicts is extremely expensive (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2012). Integrating drug treatment programs within the criminal justice system can be effective in eliminating drug abuse among the offenders and hence significantly reduce crime rate among non-violent offenders (Stevenson, 2011).

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Mental Health Treatment for Offenders

Most of offenders who abuse drugs have mental health problems. Therefore, psychological counseling and other mental health treatments are important components of a prosecution system handling offenders who are drug abusers since drug abuse and mental health problems go hand in hand (Nestler, 2014). Studies show that 13% of the imprisoned individuals have both drug abuse problem and mental health problem as well (Nestler, 2014). Similarly, criminals who have had alcohol problems have mental health problems. Accordingly, to ensure effective treatment of such offenders, it would be important to prioritize their mental health problems (Chandler et al, 2010). Treating the mental health problem will significantly reduce the rate of drug abuse and hence reduce rate of crimes; because for many drug addict criminals, it is the mental health problem that causes them to use drugs and forget their problems and in order to finance their drug use, they turn into criminal activities. Additionally, the drug usage tampers with their judgment and therefore under the influence of drugs people can easily commit crimes (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2012).


Most of non-violent offenders are victims of drug abuse. Therefore, it is important for the criminal justice system to prioritize treatment of drug abuse over criminal behavior. Some of the proposed interventions include: Treatment for drug abusers in the criminal justice system; implementing drug courts for criminally active addicts; and focusing on mental health treatment for the offenders addicted to drugs because most criminals indulge into drugs because of mental health problems.

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  1. Chandler R, Fletcher B & Volkow N. (2010). Treating Drug Abuse and Addiction in the Criminal Justice System: Improving Public Health and Safety. JAMA.  301(2): 183–190.
  2. Mitchell O, et al. (2007). Does incarceration-based drug treatment reduce recidivism? A meta-analytic synthesis of the research. Journal of Experimental Criminology. 3(4):353 –375.
  3. National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2012). Treating Offenders with Drug Problems: Integrating Public Health and Public Safety. NIDA.
  4. Nestler E. (2008). Review: transcriptional mechanisms of addiction: role of Delta FosB. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci.  363(1507):3245–3255.
  5. Stevenson B. (2011). Drug Policy, Criminal Justice and Mass Imprisonment. Geneva: Global Initiative.
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