General Question

ninjacolin's avatar

I'm challenging the government in court and I'm wondering: How well does incarceration do against other methods of dealing with drug abuse? What data/ideas do we have?

Asked by ninjacolin (13820 points ) February 13th, 2013

I will be challenging the justice system on their drug laws in court within the next 2 or 3 months. And no I’m not in any trouble myself.

Specifically, I want to show that the practice of incarceration as a response to substance abuse is inhumane and ineffective when compared against other models of dealing with addiction and substance abuse internationally.

Please help: What data and research have you come across that can help me with my case?

Have you seen any hard data on Portugal/Poland’s decriminalization program?

Do you know of other countries/states that have similar or other non-traditional methods of dealing with abuse that demonstrate greater rehab success?

Any links, arguing points, infographics or ideas that you could share?

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31 Answers

bkcunningham's avatar

What “government” are you challenging?

ninjacolin's avatar

Well, I want to leave it open so the reserach can be used by anyone.
Specifically I’m targeting countries with a: “tough on crime and substance abusers are criminals” attitude. Like most Western Countries.

josie's avatar

Can’t help you. Don’t have data. And since the question is in General, I may get modded.
But since you asked for ideas…
I agree with you 100% that putting people in jail for using drugs is an exercise in futility, counterproductive and immoral.
The problem is that currently, the social politics of our time demand that their problem becomes also my problem and yours. We are forced to pay for their fuck up in judgement. I don’t agree with that either.
You do not need a study. You only need to formulate the argument that people are entitled to be stupid. That includes the entitlement to use drugs, knowing full well that one is playing with fire. And if one gets burned, then one must appeal to private charity or deal with the problem on their own.
I volunteer some of my time to helping drug fuck-ups. They are pathetic, but for some reason I feel sorry for them. I resent that my tax dollars are used to feed a slobbering bureaucracy that exists on the false premise that they give a shit. They only want the money to pay for salaries and perks.
If people really care about addicted morons, go volunteer to help them work their way back to the real world.

ninjacolin's avatar

You won’t get modded. Every comment is appreciated, thanks.

seekingwolf's avatar

I would look into data possibly about drug rings in prison. Drugs can be obtained in prison pretty easily because prisoners have ways to smuggle them in. Lots of prisoners will secretly ferment fruit to make alcohol too.

It’s just stupid because you put them in prison for drugs and then in prison, they can get drugs. It goes to show that being in prison doesn’t really change the person. You’ve just changed their situation. The drug issue is still there. If they want to get them still,they will be able to.

Jeruba's avatar

Does the angle of granting early release to users who go into rehab have any relevance for your study? Not all rehab facilities are drug and alcohol colonies. I know some facilities are clean, and some former users do work the program and come out sober.

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bkcunningham's avatar

Here is a list of interviews and articles written by Milton Friedman on the subject. I hope you can find something helpful.

woodcutter's avatar

Really the main detractor for incarceration is…

Severe prison overcrowding. It cost a ton of money to care for any inmate no matter what their offense. States are looking for ways to save a buck.

ninjacolin's avatar

really good intel and arguments, guys. Thank you so much

ninjacolin's avatar

What are some alternatives to incarceration for substance abuse that seems to work better? Anyone heard of any studies or anything they could name or discuss that I could look up?

El_Cadejo's avatar

The only one I’m really informed one is the case with Portugal but you’re already aware of that.

trailsillustrated's avatar

hehe. haha. I have been incarcerated due to drug use. my answer. haha. hehe har har har. the usual answer is a halfway house, and probation. hahahaha. I found, that, never having been arrested, I was incarcerated due to my inabilality to pay child support, i was unable to get any help what whatever. As that was my only crime, I had no access to any programs or anything like that. There is no hope for people whose only crime is drug use.

trailsillustrated's avatar

oh and ps, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

wildpotato's avatar

This (mentions prosecutions and by implication imprisonment only in passing, but includes it in its list of things that haven’t worked vs the method outlined in the article).

In terms of “dealing with drug abuse” financially, this is a good article.

This is a more comprehensive article, and it makes the case that incarceration encourages the black market sale of drugs.

I’m getting these from the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Facebook page.

sorry for all the mobile links

ninjacolin's avatar

@trailsillustrated, sounds like a close matter to your heart.
“There is no hope for people whose only crime is drug use.” – you mean you don’t believe any kind of therapy or rehab can actually make a difference for a substance abuser?

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you rehab for everyone is not the answer. I know so many people who want to stop abusing alcohol and or drugs but they can’t break the addiction. So when you take people who don’t really give a damn and think you are going to rehabilitate them by putting them into some sort of program, it is a dream. I have been through the ranks and the tough love approach is the only one I have seen work more consistently than others. You have to hit your bottom and want to make a change, even then there is no guarantee but you have a better shot that way. But if you cut off the welfare that supports them, because the real addicts can’t hold a job, thinking that in this way, they will hit their bottom and want to change. Then they just rob and steal. I think it has to be stopped before it becomes an addiction, but I don’t have a clue how you do that.

KNOWITALL's avatar

No time for data right now, maybe on lunch, but from lots of personal experience, as soon as the inmate is released, it’s back to the drugs. It helps no one.

trailsillustrated's avatar

When I was in the system, there were no programs available unless you had a felony. This goes for work and housing programs also. I was just lucky that someone helped me.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@ninjacolin @rooeytoo is right. To get sober you have to want it more than anything. anything. And that usually means having a reason. When you are on the street, and have nothing to look forward to, that’s not much of a reason.

ninjacolin's avatar

@trailsillustrated: “I was just lucky that someone helped me.” – sorry, what do you mean by that? who helped you and in what way? Was it the incarceration that helped you or was it something else?

bkcunningham's avatar

Watch this if you get an opportunity. I saw it today and thought about your question.

El_Cadejo's avatar

While I don’t know how well this argument will work in your case ,since this is also a schedule 1 drug in the US but Ibogaine has show to be a tremendous help in breaking addiction. Not only does it eliminate the withdraw symptoms from opiates but more importantly, IMO is “Many users of ibogaine report experiencing visual phenomena during a waking dream state, such as instructive replays of life events that led to their addiction, while others report therapeutic shamanic visions that help them conquer the fears and negative emotions that might drive their addiction. It is proposed that intensive counseling, therapy and aftercare during the interruption period following treatment is of significant value. ”

ninjacolin's avatar

Yes, I can see how that’s related, @bkcunningham. I wouldn’t reference that production directly, lol, but they do have many insightful points that I could wiggle in to the discussion. Thanks!

@uberbatman, that’s one alternative. There are so many areas that we could study to find more solutions and I imagine we would have so many willing participants who would volunteer.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@ninjacolin lets see, this all happened in a very diverse city, so one night almost seven years ago I left the flophouse where I was living to buy a hamburger with my last money from a really spendy upscale bar/restaurant. While there I met a man who ended up marrying me and keeping me in lockdown for about five years but it saved my life and I have been clean and sober all that time. We are divorced now. The end. But I am in a great situation now.

zensky's avatar

I think that one of the main problems with blatant incarceration vis a vis drug related use is that bth ogoing in and coming out of prison – the individual usually hasn’t changed. drugs are rampant and easily obtained in prison, from what I’ve read.

The system should be more about rehabilitation in the real sense of the word. The addict should be sent to a closed rehab center – and time spent learning how to detox – and maybe learning a trade while doing so (if necessary). Not just about incarceration.

ninjacolin's avatar

Treatment or Incarceration – National and State Findings on the Efficacy and Cost Savings of Drug Treatment Versus Imprisonment

great report out of Maryland, USA.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have to admit I became bored and didn’t finish the entire document. But it appears to me it was based on the financial aspect of treatment vs incarceration rather than any other aspect. This excerpt was interesting “Maryland’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration (ADAA) reports that people discharged
from the programs they fund, particularly those that completed treatment successfully,
had substantially lower substance use than they did at admission. The percentage of
people using drugs after they were discharged from ADAA funded programs was
substantially lower than the percentages who used drugs at admission, and completion of
treatment and length of time spent in treatment were correlated with reduced use of
drugs. Between 40 % and 50 % of ADAA program admissions successfully completed their
treatment programs.” That is about as enlightening as nothing. Phrases like substantially lower mean absolutely nothing. It seems to me the way to stop drug use is to cut off the money people are using to buy drugs. If you are a heavy user, the kind who would probably end up in jail, you are probably not employed so you are buying drugs with welfare money. I would suggest welfare payments come in the guise of food stamps, payments directly to rental agency for housing, clothing stamps. Society should not be funding drug use. If the addict commits a crime to support his habit then off to jail. And it seems as if it should not be the most difficult job in the world to get drugs out of prisons. Tell the ACLU to get stuffed and teach people how to make a living by teaching them how to work while in prison instead of lifting weights. Rehabilitation is a wonderful idea but I have seen so many who want to give up drinking, smoking, drugging and still fail time after time so I don’t have much hope that you can take someone who doesn’t care if they quit or not, and give them some magic message that will get them off the substance. There is no easy answer, but ignoring or legalizing the situation is not going to solve it, I’m pretty sure of that.

ninjacolin's avatar

Gotta say, @rooeytoo, it’s far more important to TRY something new than it is to say: “I’m sure leaving things the way they are is better than any of these other ideas. So let’s do nothing for now and you researchers, back to the drawing board.”

It marks a fundamental under-appreciation for everything Science to go the route of: “Meh, lets not even bother testing any other ideas we’ve come up with.”

If you want to place a bet against the results of a particular test, I’m fine with that. But don’t tell people not to try new ideas on the grounds that you’re “pretty sure” it won’t work. You would agree, I hope, that doing so is much more dangerously the “nothing” you referred to earlier.

Secondly, “substantial” is not nothing. “Substantial” means “noteworthy”, “useful” and “not to be ignored.” I’m aware of the kinds of manipulative, non-informing words that you’re urging caution about. But “Substantial” is not that kind of word. In a court of law, I agree you have to put numbers to things like that unless you’re hoping to just get one by the opposition unnoticed.

rooeytoo's avatar

@ninjacolin – I Don’t believe I said don’t try anything new. Reread what I said and you will see that. Substantially lower is politic talk to justify the salary of the guy who is running the program or compiling the stats. It could mean 1 out of 1000 and to me that is not success. That one person probably had reached their bottom and were ready to stop using or die. That is where the success rate improves reasonably well and even then many choose to die or die because they can’t make the other choice and stick with it. That report was based on money, plain and simple. To me that is not heroic or worthy of praise or even more importantly inviting success. Find a report that gives real information such as 2 out of 10 were rehabilitated and for how long their clean and sober status has lasted. And what program was used. I have been in a lot of aa meetings where court mandated attendees slept through the meetings and went out drinking afterwards. You know that old saying, you can lead a horse to water etc. etc. etc.

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