Drug offenses occur when someone uses, sells, possesses or furnishes drugs prohibited by law. In the majority of cases, drug offenses are felonies. Whether the offender is an adult or a minor, the charge can have significant weight and lead to life-changing consequences.
An interesting topic that has now been widely researched is if imprisoning someone for a drug charge really helps. The results were not surprising. More imprisonment, according to Pew, does not reduce drug problems. In fact, the data has shown no relationship between drug misuse and prison terms.
Why does this research matter?
Looking at this research, Pew has been able to assert that the evidence shows that alternative strategies would work better and cost less. None of the data suggested that stiff prison terms would deter drug distribution, misuse or other violations.
Prison sentences soared as a result of federal sentencing laws
Federal sentencing laws have been able to put some kingpins and even violent drug offenders in prison, but the reality is that the majority of people being imprisoned are low-level offenders.
States treat drug offenses differently
Every state has its own methods for handling drug offenses. Louisiana, for example, had the highest imprisonment rate for drug offenders in the entire nation in 2014 based on population. What’s also interesting is that arrest rates, overdose deaths and drug use don’t have a correlation with imprisonment. In other words, when there was more imprisonment taking place, drug use, overdose deaths and arrests weren’t necessarily happening less.
Why is this information important?
After reviewing this research, it’s obvious that imprisonment is not the answer for the majority of drug-related offenses. With imprisonment, offenders aren’t getting treatment. They are not learning to cope with substance abuse or learning new skills to help them avoid offending again.
For people who are struggling with real substance abuse problems, alternative penalties can be more helpful. Substance abuse treatment can get them back to a sober lifestyle and has been shown to reduce the risk of offending again in the future. This also encourages the individual to rejoin society as a worker and someone who is giving back to the community and economy.
There is a strong argument for alternative offenses. If you’re facing charges, this information could help your attorney build a strong case for alternatives to incarceration, which can help you avoid prison and get you the drug-abuse treatment that you may need.