Drugs The Social Albatross Criminology Essay

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Did you know America ranks the lowest in education but the highest in drug use? It's nice to be number one, but we can fix that. All we need to do is start the war on education. If it's anywhere near as successful as our war on drugs, in no time we'll all be hooked on phonics. ~Leighann Lord

Description of the problem that necessitated the policy:

Drugs-the social albatross of the last century. The drug "problem," as it is referred to, became a problem when it was placed under legal-sanctions. The possession of drugs became illegal and consequently, a "problem" was created. It is irrelevant, however, at this point, for hind-sight revelations or public protestations; for, very rarely, will policy makers concede error. So. right or wrong, we, as a society are left with a ethical dilemma…what shall be done with drug offenders?

This ethical dilemma, as I deem it, is such, because our society seems to attach two diverging diagnoses to this social ill. Is drug use and abuse a deviant criminal behavior? Some say, "yes."

Others, however, contend that drug use and abuse is a illness; a disease, the same as Cancer? Here is where the ethical dilemma presents itself, for we can not punish someone that is suffering from a disease. We don't incarcerate lepers, but we incarcerate drug addicts. Are there ethical implications here?

Not necessarily. The stigma that drug abuse carries with it is not unwarranted. There is a correlation between drug abuse and criminal behavior. This correlation can present itself in one of three ways:

The first way has already been established- possession or distribution of drugs is against the law and therefore, is subject to prosecution. The second correlation is this: when crimes are committed, the perpetrator, statistically speaking, is often high on drugs. The BJS reports that, 1/3 third of State inmates said they had committed their current offense while intoxicated." (BJS, Mumula) The pharmacological effects of illicit drugs, combined with other social/psycho conditions seem to be the catalyst in perpetuating violent crime. Within the drug culture, deviant behavior and illegal activity are prevalent; full blown drug addicts rarely participate in legitimate business. Finally, the third correlation between drugs and crime involves the fact that drugs cost money. Drug addicts, as a means to support their habits, do all sorts of pillaging. "…roughly 20% of offenders report having committed their crime in order to obtain money for drugs." (Mumola & Karberg, 2006)

A commitment to a life-style which accents short-term goals (getting high) and is supported by illegal activities, presents a difficult cycle to transcend. Once a drug addict, soon a drug offender, these individuals are recycled through our corrections system without reprieve.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines recidivism as, "the re-arrest, reconviction, and consequent return to prison, with or without a new sentence," Recidivism is the epitome of inefficiency and the customized protocol for the drug offender. Imagine a young adult, having just graduated from a four year college (at your expense), returning home and revealing that he/she can't read or write. Would you pay for them to go back? Probably not! This is, however, exactly what we do with repeat drug offenders; we recycle them back through an institution that didn't work in the first place. The solution to this problem came with the invention and mandate of the drug court policy.

How widespread is it?

The necessity of the drug court becomes clear when the magnitude of the problem is further defined. The BJS estimates that more than half of the individuals entering the criminal justice system, regardless of their offense, have substance-abuse problems.23 Among state prisoners, 32% reported drug use at the time of the offense, and 53% of state prisoners met the medical criteria for drug dependence or abuse.24 The BJS survey found that drug dependent or drug-abusing state prisoners were more likely to have extensive criminal records, with 53% of such inmates having at least three prior sentences, compared with 32% of other state inmates. (Franco)

What are the causes of it?

Recidivism is a complex problem and the causes of it are manifold: Untreated mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, severed familial and community ties, and the impediment of a criminal record. Left untreated, drug-abusing offenders can relapse to drug use and return to criminal behavior. This jeopardizes public health and public safety, leads to re-arrest and re-incarceration, and further taxes an already over-burdened criminal justice system. (NIDA)

Who is affected by it & how?

Recidivism not only affects the convicted criminal, but the society, in which, the convict is released. Therefore, the importance of trying to rehabilitate a drug offender and not just punish him/her is the humane action to take. To address the demographics of drug addiction is trivial, for every age, race, socioeconomic status and gender is susceptible to the ravages of drug addiction and thus, drug offenses.

"White inmates (59%) reported higher levels of drug dependence or abuse than black (44%) or Hispanic (34%) inmates." This is an interesting statistic to report, since, within the public consciousness inaccurate generalizations are made regarding what ethnic groups are more susceptible to drug addiction. (BJS)

History of the policy

America, it seems, has struggled in its attempts to find a panacea for the drug epidemic. The criminal justice system, in its efforts, has been submerged in a morass of over-booked court calendars and a infestation of junkies in its cells.

According to Stitchcomb's account, the premier drug court appeared in Miami, FL, in 1989 and as is characteristic of American culture, "the concept spread across the USA with the judicial equivalent of wildfire, in what has since been described as a driving 'spirit of fanaticism' (Dodge, 2001, quoting Mark Kleiman)."

Policy Description

How does it work?

Drug courts are specialized court dockets, or portions of judges' calendars of cases, that generally target nonviolent offenders with substance-abuse problems. These programs provide offenders with intensive court supervision, mandatory drug testing, substance-abuse treatment, and other social services as an alternative to adjudication or incarceration. In this way, drug courts are designed to break the cycle of substance abuse, addiction, and crime by changing the behavior of

substance-abusing offenders. (Franco)

What does it provide? Vouchers? Monies? Benefits?

Drug courts provide criminal parolees with extremely sensitive court supervision. The offenders are required to participate in random drug testing.

Who is covered by it? Eligibility Criteria?

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons,

How is it implemented?

What are the outcomes or goals?

Are they just & democratic?

Are they consistent with the values of the social work profession?

Do they contribute to the greater good?

Are there any ethical issues Involved in the process or the implementation?

Is drug abuse a crime or a illness?

How is it funded?

Although drug courts are mostly initiated and funded at the state and local level, Congress has supported the development, implementation, and expansion of drug courts through the federal Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program, originally authorized under Title V of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). While the federal drug court grant program authorization of appropriations expired in FY2008, the program has continued to receive appropriations: $40 million for FY2009 (P.L. 111-8) and $45 million for FY2010 (P.L. 111-117). In the 111th Congress, H.R. 6090 would amend the program and extend the authorization of appropriations for drug court grants from FY2011 through FY2017. Congress could consider reauthorizing the program in its current form or amending the program to reflect issues of concern. (Franco, 2010)

How is it administered?

Who oversees it?

Is it effective?

Substance abuse treatment can work Research has produced clear and convincing evidence that substance abuse treatment works. Treatment reduces alcohol and drug use and crime. It also produces a significant return on taxpayer investment. Numerous studies have found

therapeutic communities to be particularly effective, and treatment appears to work equally well for those who are coerced into treatment and those who volunteer. Staying

in or completing treatment increases the likelihood of positive outcomes. One of the most comprehensive studies on treatment effectiveness was the National Treatment Improvement

Evaluation Study (NTIES). This Congressionally mandated five-year study of more 4,400 subjects found that treatment decreased substance abuse as well as criminal activity. One year pre- and post treatment comparisons found that the use of illicit substances by treatment participants in the study fell by about 50% in the year after treatment, while the number arrested fell by 64% (Figure 5.3). Drug selling decreased 78%, and the percentage who supported themselves largely through illegal activity was nearly cut in half. 39( Przybylski, 2008)

How long will it be in existence?


Political feasibility:

Does the public believe it can happen? Americans are notable for their public-policy ambivalence, particularly in terms of criminal justice, where policy paradigms have swung dramatically in widely differing directions over recent decades: Community-based alternatives go out-intermediate sanctions come in. Rehabilitation goes out-accountability comes

in. Soft-on-crime goes out-zero tolerance comes in (Stinchcomb, 2000, p. vi).

But perhaps nowhere has US policy-making ambivalence found greater expression than in America's divergent responses over the years to drug-related crime and substance abuse. In fact, today it is difficult to …(Stitchcomb, p.152)

Who will support or oppose the policy?

 Economic feasibility:

How is it funded?

ie: "pay-go" funding (reallocation)

Administrative feasibility:

Effectiveness - will (or does) the policy do what it's supposed to?

Efficiency - cost-effectiveness

In every society, there exists the issue of crime and punishment; for where there are laws, there will be law breakers. For those that break the law, a recompense is demanded. In American society, this recompense often takes the form of some duration of imprisonment. Imprisonment, it is thought, would provide a good deterrent for aspiring criminals, but does it? If imprisonment was a efficient deterrent, than surely, the percentage of repeat offenders would be low. However, as we shall see, recidivism rates in America are not low. This phenomenon, the recycling of convicts, raises a myriad of questions and concerns. Is prison an effective rehabilitation system? Is it a rehabilitation system at all?

If, when armed with the facts, our correction systems can improve proficiency and diminish wastefulness. Perhaps, it is here, that the magnitude of the problem should be illustrated.