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Crime and Drugs

Essay by review  •  September 21, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  2,993 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,485 Views

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Crime and Drug Use

The link between drug use and crime is not a new one. For more than twenty years, both the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Justice have funded many studies to try to better understand the connection. One such study was done in Baltimore on heroin users. This study found high rates of criminality among users during periods of active drug use, and much lower rates during periods of nonuse (Ball et al. 1983, pp.119-142). A large number of people who abuse drugs come into contact with the criminal justice system when they are sent to jail or to other correctional facilities. The criminal justice system is flooded with substance abusers. The need for expanding drug abuse treatment for this group of people was recognized in the Crime Act of 1994, which for the first time provided substantial resources for federal and state jurisdictions. In this paper, I will argue that using therapeutic communities in prisons will reduce the recidivism rates among people who have been released from prison. I am going to use the general theory of crime, which is based on self-control, to help rationalize using federal tax dollars to fund these therapeutic communities in prisons. I feel that if we teach these prisoners some self-control and alternative lifestyles that we can keep them from reentering the prisons once they get out. I am also going to describe some of today's programs that have proven to be very effective. Gottfredson and Hirschi developed the general theory of crime. It According to their theory, the criminal act and the criminal offender are separate concepts. The criminal act is perceived as opportunity; illegal activities that people engage in when they perceive them to be advantageous. Crimes are committed when they promise rewards with minimum threat of pain or punishment. Crimes that provide easy, short-term gratification are often committed. The number of offenders may remain the same, while crime rates fluctuate due to the amount of opportunity (Siegel 1998). Criminal offenders are people that are predisposed to committing crimes. This does not mean that they have no choice in the matter, it only means that their self-control level is lower than average. When a person has limited self-control, they tend to be more impulsive and shortsighted. This ties back in with crimes that are committed that provide easy, short-term gratification. These people do not necessarily have a tendency to commit crimes, they just do not look at long-term consequences and they tend to be reckless and self-centered (Longshore 1998, pp.102-113). These people with lower levels of self-control also engage in non-criminal acts as well. These acts include drinking, gambling, smoking, and illicit sexual activity (Siegel 1998). Also, drug use is a common act that is performed by these people. They do not look at the consequences of the drugs, while they get the short-term gratification. Sometimes this drug abuse becomes an addiction and then the person will commit other small crimes to get the drugs or them money to get the drugs. In a mid-western study done by Evans et al. (1997, pp. 475-504), there was a significant relationship between self-control and use of illegal drugs. The problem is once these people get into the criminal justice system, it is hard to get them out. After they do their time and are released, it is much easier to be sent back to prison. Once they are out, they revert back to their impulsive selves and continue with the only type of life they know. They know short-term gratification, the "quick fix" if you will. Being locked up with thousands of other people in the same situation as them is not going to change them at all. They break parole and are sent back to prison. Since the second half of the 1980's, there has been a large growth in prison and jail populations, continuing a trend that started in the 1970's. The proportion of drug users in the incarcerated population also grew at the same time. By the end of the 1980's, about one-third of those sent to state prisons had been convicted of a drug offense; the highest in the country's history (Reuter 1992, pp. 323-395). With the arrival of crack use in the 1980's, the strong relationship between drugs and crime got stronger. The use of cocaine and heroin became very prevalent. Violence on the streets that is caused by drugs got the public's attention and that put pressure on the police and courts. Consequently, more arrests were made. While it may seem good at first that these people are locked up, with a second look, things are not that good. The cost to John Q. Taxpayer for a prisoner in Ohio for a year is around $30,000 (Phipps 1998). That gets pretty expensive when you consider that there are more than 1,100,000 people in United States prisons today (Siegel 1998). Many prisoners are being held in local jails because of overcrowding. This rise in population is largely due to the number of inmates serving time for drug offenses (Siegel 1998). This is where therapeutic communities come into play. The term "therapeutic community" has been used in many different forms of treatment, including residential group homes and special schools, and different conditions, like mental illness, alcoholism, and drug abuse (Lipton 1998, pp.106-109). In the United States, therapeutic communities are used in the rehabilitation of drug addicts in and out of prison. These communities involve a type of group therapy that focuses more on the person a whole and not so much the offense they committed or their drug abuse. They use a "community of peers" and role models rather than professional clinicians. They focus on lifestyle changes and tend to be more holistic (Lipton 1998, pp. 106-109). By getting inmates to participate in these programs, the prisoners can break their addiction to drugs. By freeing themselves from this addiction they can change their lives. These therapeutic communities can teach them some self-control and ways that they can direct their energies into more productive things, such as sports, religion, or work. Seven out of every ten men and eight out of every ten women in the criminal justice system used drugs with some regularity prior to entering the criminal justice system (Lipton 1998, pp. 106-109). With that many people in prisons that are using drugs and the connection between drug use and crime, then if there was any success at all it seems like it would be a step in the right direction. Many of these offenders will not seek any type of reform when they are in the community. They feel that they do not have the time to commit to go through a program of rehabilitation. It makes sense, then, that they should receive treatment while in prison because one thing they have plenty of is time. In 1979, around four percent of the prison population, or about 10,000, were

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