Tuesday, July 24, 2007


"Bill pushes therapy, not jail. Prisons officials: Drug-offender option would ease overcrowding". Thus reads the July 15 headline of a Columbus Dispatch article. The idea is to "...give judges far more latitude in sentencing non-violent offenders to drug and alcohol treatment or to community programs instead of prison."

Compared to prison, of course, almost anything sounds great - but the concept of judges "sentencing" people to "treatment" is frightening. Presumably the premise is that drug use is a condition (apparently, a "disease") that lends itself to treatment. This is a highly questionable assumption (consider the tens of millions of Americans who are subject to arrest and prosecution for smoking pot). But even if one assumes all those non-violent offenders of drug laws are "sick" and might benefit from "treatment," how will the system respond when that treatment is ineffective and clients/patients continue to use illicit substances? Logically, they are the ones demonstrating greatest need for continued help - but will they get it, or will they simply to tossed into jail?

When laws not only fail to benefit society but actually create an impossible burden, they should be reconsidered and repealed. "Sentencing to treatment" those accused of illegal acts maintains, rather than corrects, a fundamentally flawed system.

The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)


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