Priority Issues: Substance Abuse
I. The Issue
In 2006, the United States arrested approximately 1.89 million people for drug-related offenses, up from 581,000 in 1980. Many of these offenders were incarcerated for non-violent crimes. They were not immediate threats to public safety, but it was in society’s best interest to ensure that they stopped abusing drugs. Taxpayers are entitled to ask whether incarceration is accomplishing that goal.
II. The Impact
Incarceration can cost anywhere from $16,000 per year per offender (the average in Texas) to $50,000 per year per offender (the average in California). Recidivism rates are high in American prisons, and there is little evidence that drug abusers who enter prison leave having conquered their addiction.
A national study found that 95 percent of cases resolved through victim-offender mediation result in a written agreement, 90 percent of which are completed within one year, far exceeding the average restitution collection rate of 20 to 30 percent. Furthermore, 79 percent of victims who participated in mediation were satisfied, compared with 57 percent in the traditional court system. Also, the 1,298 juveniles who participated in mediation were 32 percent less likely to re-offend.
In addition to mediation, a greater emphasis should be placed on victims’ input
throughout the criminal justice process. The voice of the victim should be more closely considered by judges and prosecutors at every stage.
III. The Conservative Solution
Drug courts are specialty courts with judges who impose supervision, drug testing, treatment, and sanctions upon defendants in lieu of incarceration. The reduced recidivism rates that result from the use of drug courts benefit public safety, but drug courts can also reduce the burden of incarceration on state budgets because they cost less—between $2,500 and $4,000 annually per offender. Conservatives favor voluntary drug courts because they provide options for those people who are sincerely committed to taking responsibility to reform their lives.
For example, the HOPE (Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement) program, started by a former federal prosecutor in Hawaii, conducts frequent drug tests backed-up by swift and certain sanctions for violations, usually a few days in jail. They have cut drug use by more than 70% and arrests for new crimes fell by more than 50%. Moreover, when offenders are participating in HOPE, they are taking up far fewer prison beds, and Hawaii can prioritize the space for violent offenders.
The HOPE program recognizes that a drug court should not be a free pass. Offenders in drug courts should remain under regular monitoring to ensure that they hold jobs, receive treatment, and pay restitution if they have been convicted of a property crime. As defendants complete the rigorous program of the drug court, they remain outside of prison, and therefore, they should be encouraged to hold a job and support their families. There are many benefits to this system. Families stay together more often. Children are provided for more often. Burdens on social services systems such as foster care are alleviated. In some cases, if offenders complete the drug court program to the satisfaction of the judge and the person is not a threat to public safety and was not involved in dealing drugs, the underlying offense can be removed from their record, and thus does not harm their future employment prospects.
There are nearly 2,000 drug courts nationally, and the evidence indicates that they work. The national recidivism rate of those who complete drug court programs is between 4 and 29 percent. The control group incarceration rate is 48 percent. Even those who enter drug courts but do not complete their programs appear to have lower recidivism rates. In the state of Texas, for example, where approximately 100 drug courts are operating, the re-arrest rate for those who begin but do not complete the drug court program is 40.5 percent, as compared to the 58.5 percent rate in the Texas control group.
In drug courts, America has found not only a solution to an important public policy problem, it has hit yet again upon an essential conservative truth – the power of personal responsibility and accountability. Drugs courts are not suitable for every convicted defendant, but neither is imprisonment.
An Act of Faith: Florida Can Save Money, Reduce Crime, Salvage Lives by the James Madison Institute
Breaking Addiction Without Breaking the Bank: Cost-Effective Strategies for Texas Lawmakers to Reduce Substance Abuse by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Criminal Justice Policy in Delaware: Options for Controlling Costs and Protecting Public Safety by the Caesar Rodney Institute
Criminal Justice Policy in New Mexico: Keys to Controlling Costs and Protecting Public Safety by the Rio Grande Foundation
Drug Courts: The Right Prescription for Texas by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
How to Avert another Texas Prison Crowding Crisis by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Smart on Crime: With Prison Costs on the Rise, Ohio Needs Better Policies for Protecting the Public by the Buckeye Institute
Marc Levin’s research cited in TX Tribune’s ‘TribCast’
During this week’s edition of The Texas Tribune‘s political podcast ‘TribCast,’ ROC policy director Marc Levin’s research regarding cost of incarceration vs. rehabilitation is discussed as the contributors talk about Governor Perry’s marijuana decriminalization remarks. Click here to listen to the podcast.:: Read More
Washington Post: “Texas leads the way in needed criminal justice reforms”
In the Lone Star State, the effort [to reform the criminal justice system] has conservative roots. Budget-minded state leaders crafted an alternative to perpetually feeding money into prison construction to warehouse non-violent offenders, rather than investing in drug treatment or better parole programs. Click here for the full story from Washington Post.:: Read More
ROC discusses decriminalization of marijuana with “The Chad Hasty Show”
Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy sits down with KFYO’s “The Chad Hasty Show” to talk about Gov. Rick Perry’s remarks regarding the decriminalization of marijuana in Texas. Click here to listen to the interview.:: Read More
Right On Crime in Texas Monthly
In response to Governor Perry’s remarks concerning the decriminalization of marijuana, this article by Texas Monthly credits Right On Crime’s reform policies with helping to reduce Texas’ incarceration rates. “Texas’s recent reforms on drug policy are summarized at the Right on Crime initiative, which began here, at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and has since spread [...]:: Read More
The New York Times: “America on Probation”
“Restoring common sense to sentencing is the obvious first step in downsizing prisons.” In his latest op-ed, Bill Keller of The New York Times, writes about the issue of mass incarceration in the U.S. and what our nation can do to reverse this trend. The ROC statement of principles is also cited in the article [...]:: Read More
Alaska turns to ROC policies as model for prison reform
The state of Alaska knows “It’s time to try something else” in regards to their criminal justice system and looks to ROC’s success in Texas as inspiration for reform.:: Read More
In State of the Judiciary, Nebraska’s top judge calls for more prison alternatives
Smart criminal justice reform works. 82% of graduates of Nebraska’s Specialized Substance Abuse Supervision program had jobs, and 91% were still crime-free a year later. Click here to read the Omaha.com article.:: Read More
State criminal justice reforms in action
Posted in Adult Probation, Georgia, Law Enforcement, Ohio, Parole and Re-Entry, Priority Issues, Prisons, ROC Blog, South Dakota, State Initiatives, Substance Abuse, Texas, The Criminal Justice Challenge: October 17, 2013 by Right on Crime
This new ROC infographic gives the facts about criminal justice in Texas and proves that our reforms are effective. Check out the infographic below and and click here to read more about state-level reforms. [Click here to enlarge infographic]:: Read More
Norquist-Gleason: Holder follows GOP lead in easing harsh drug laws
ROC signatory Grover Norquist co-authors this Reuters op-ed with Patrick Gleason, in which they further discuss how U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is late to the party regarding criminal justice reforms, noting that “it has been Republicans in the states who are leading the way.” “Consider Texas, where the smart-on-crime policy reform movement began in [...]:: Read More
The American Prospect: “Prison Reform: No Longer Politically Toxic?”
Marc Levin in The American Prospect: “[Too] often states send low-risk, nonviolent offenders to prison for a year or less, which often means any benefit of incapacitation is outweighed by the fact that these offenders are often more of a risk when they leave due to who they encountered behind bars and their ties to [...]:: Read More
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