One of the biggest challenges of working within the criminal justice system is dealing with the fact that drug policy and law tend to lag behind the best science out there for treating addiction. To some extent, this has to happen because research needs to be tested before being implemented, and policy change is slow. At the same time, though, outdated policies can often do more harm than good, and one area where that has become very apparent is in the way the system handles nonviolent drug offenders.
The case against jail time
The Justice Policy Institute has put together an extensive report on the successes and failures of criminalizing drug addiction versus treating it as a medical condition, and their findings are quite clear. Not only does treatment for addiction decrease the likelihood of recidivism, or criminal relapse, by more directly helping addicts stop taking drugs, it also has a variety of other benefits:
- There are reduced costs, with most treatment programs costing less than half as much as incarceration.
- It is also more cost effective, with each dollar spent on treatment going roughly four times further than community-based aftercare for the incarcerated does.
- Promising treatment models exist all around the country, allowing for flexibility to meet the needs of each individual patient.
Findings like these have led to many changes over the last few years, but making change happen takes time, and it takes people within the system working to advocate for the most effective outcomes.
The role of attorneys in changing drug policy
While political pressure and legislative changes are the most visible ways that drug policy is changed, they do not happen on their own or in a vacuum. One of the best ways to make sure that those who are addicted to drugs receive the help they need is by finding an effective attorney for yourself or your loved ones when needed. An attorney can help make the case that needs to be made for treatment, and when lawyers work to show prosecutors and judges more effective methods for helping drug addicts, they gain the allies needed to make effective change happen on a larger scale.
Drug policy in Georgia
The state of Georgia is known for being tough on drugs, but that does not mean that policy is unchanging. If you or someone you know is facing a drug charge in the state, talk to an attorney to find out what the best options are as you move forward.