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Benefits of Treatment Over Punishment When It Comes to Drug Crimes

Throughout Pennsylvania and across the country, increasing numbers of public officials are coming to the realization that prioritizing treatment over incarceration for drug offenders could save taxpayers billions of dollars in the long term. And, these efforts would likely benefit communities and actually improve public safety.

According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, these cost savings would come as a result of reductions of both prison budgets and the numbers of repeat crimes committed by people who have been successfully treated.

Currently, about half of all inmates in state prisons across the country are drug dependent, according to Newswise. However, only about 10 percent of these individuals receive adequate drug treatment while incarcerated. Untreated inmates are statistically more likely to begin using again upon their release, and they also reoffend at higher rates compared to those who are not drug dependent.

Looking at the numbers

Looking at data going back to 2004, researchers were able to determine that if only 10 percent of low-level offenders were treated through community-based programs rather than being incarcerated, the U.S. criminal justice system overall would save nearly $5 billion. That savings would increase to nearly $13 billion if 40 percent of eligible offenders were subject to this type of treatment instead of prison.

Surveys show that members of the American public are also changing their perceptions of drug-related crimes. A 2014 study found that about two-thirds of Americans would prefer that low-level drug offenders engage in treatment programs that focus on rehabilitation rather than retribution. Despite this, a majority of the public continues to believe that drug abuse is a major problem in this country.

In Pennsylvania, convictions for possession of even a small amount of marijuana and other illegal substances still come with significant penalties. If you are facing drug charges, speak with dedicated Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.


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