A huge proportion of offenders also have substance abuse problems, most commonly drugs such as heroin, crack or meth. Depending on their crime, they will either be offered a substance abuse treatment program in jail itself, or they may be offered the option to go to rehab rather than jail. This is only possible if they have committed reasonably insignificant crimes.
Benefits of Drug Rehab over Jail
There are various benefits to sending nonviolent offenders to rehab rather than jail. These benefits include:
• The fact that it is cheaper than incarceration
• The health outcomes are far more positive
• There are less instances of recidivism
What the government would be most happy to hear is that it offers an amazing return on investment.
The SA&CPA in California
The SA&CPA is the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, which exists in California. Through this act, nonviolent offenders are sent into treatment and are spared jail. Following a recent study, it was revealed that this saved the state $2,300 for each offender in the 30 months after they received their conviction. Considering there were 42,000 offences in the first year after the SA&CPA was implemented, this could amount to savings of $97 million. Yes, the law does mean that more money has to be spent on health care, treatment and supervision during community service. However, because these offenders do not have to be incarcerated, there are actually savings overall.
The Price of Incarceration
When a person is sent to jail, they become a huge cost. They have to be placed in rooms, which have to be furnished. They have to be fed and monitored and, if they do have a substance abuse problem, they will require substance abuse treatment as well. All of this amounts to a huge amount of money. In fact, the average cost to incarcerate a single person for a full year is as much as $49,000.
The Act was put into place when Proposition 36 was passed. As a result, nonviolent offenders who meet a set amount of criteria will be sent to probation and a requirement of attending rehab. This is instead of a prison sentence possibly followed by probation. An offender is allowed three “mishaps” before they do have to be incarcerated. Their initial violation is irrelevant, they will continue to receive chances. However, after the third strike, they are out and do have to go to jail.
The cost of substance abuse disorder is estimated to be around $180.9 billion. Interestingly enough, it seems that the biggest contributors to this budget are the criminal justice workers. Federal decision makers cost $7.6 billion, as do domestic law enforcement. However, prevention programs only received $1.7 billion and treatment services only received $3.9.
What about the Offenders?
Another very important issue is the fact that offenders would choose to go to rehab rather than jail. They find that prison is not a place to rehabilitate and they often come out with worse chances than they did before they went in. Their addiction is generally worse and their criminal connections have increased. If they go to rehab, however, they have the opportunity to turn their lives around, get rid of the addiction problem and leave their criminal life behind. Unsurprisingly, most jump at the opportunity.