Rehab: An Alternative to Sentencing

by Robert M. Helfend
(Los Angeles, CA)

There is a strong debate in Courtrooms across America whether rehabilitation for drug and alcohol offenders is more effective than jail time. As a potential sentencing method, rehabilitation not only helps the offender, but the community as a whole.

Rehabilitation, especially for first time offenders, has a strong track record of being more beneficial drug for people addicted to alcohol than incarceration. Incarcerating offenders for drug and alcohol crimes may often lead the individual to commit more crimes once they are released from jail.

Crime and addiction in the United States goes hand in hand. Violent and non-violent drug and alcohol related crimes often lead to long prison sentences. Most jails have little in the way of rehabilitation resources for inmates. Those that do have programs for inmates usually do not have the necessary qualified personnel to effectively work with addiction.

Once released from jail, many inmates repeat the behaviors that landed them in jail. They may also have a tendency to further their criminal activity within the community.

Breaking the cycle

When sentenced to rehabilitation centers, non-violent offenders, receive the tools necessary to break the cycle of addiction. Courts and society need to see that drug and alcohol use is a mental and physical illness. Sentencing offenders to rehab has been a proven method to aid addicts and help change their lives, thus bettering themselves.

Once they successfully complete rehabilitation, it is less likely that the previous criminal behavior will be repeated. Rehabilitation can separate addicts from the cycle of addiction. Rehabilitation also teaches people life skills that can enable them to get off the streets and therefore, become a productive member of society.

We all know that drug and alcohol related crime is at an all-time high. It is affecting our neighborhoods and our towns. Many say that rehabilitation needs to happen within the prison/jail system walls. This is an expensive alternative. Outside treatment facilities cost much less, thus being less expensive on the taxpayers. The cost of outside rehabilitation is approximately a quarter of what it costs to keep someone incarcerated.

Many disagree

Many people disagree with treatment outside the jail system. Some people feel that it is not punishment for the crime, and that jail is the only option. However, many times jail rehabilitation does little good, thus, once the inmate is free, they return to their criminal ways.

Overcrowding in our jails is a concern for not only the justice system, but also on society. Prisons do not have the capacity to house all the inmates they have. In fact, many jails release non-violent offenders and put them on probation or parole. Taxpayers are paying for this supervision.

If we, as a society, ever want to end the war on drugs, we need to comprehend that rehabilitation is a viable option. Treatment can help reduce the demand for illegal drugs. When criminal addicts do not get treatment, they provide dealers and the drug trade more power and money.

Robert M. Helfend, a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney notes, “Communities need treatment alternatives instead of jail time. Adequate access to drug and alcohol rehab centers will better serve the community than sentencing certain offenders to jail time. Effective treatment for addiction is a powerful weapon that truly works to help fight the war on drugs and crimes related to drug activity. It is a far better option than jail time, and the long-term effects exceed the societal benefits of incarceration.”

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- Matthew 7:7-8


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