With the economy still recovering from a global crisis, people have turned to vices in the form of drugs and alcohol to help distract from their financial struggles. Unfortunately, as the prisons overpopulate and the government’s bill grows in order to find a balance and keep drugs off the street, the financial toll on individuals is compounded. But there’s another solution. Check out our infographic to see how government funded, preemptive therapy for first-time drug users can save every taxpayer $110 each year!
There has been a huge increase in the amount states and federal penitentiaries are spending on drug convictions. During the 20-year period from 1982 to 2002, it soared by 423 percent to an average $209 per U.S. resident. Three decades ago, that price was only $40.
Clearly something has to be done to reduce these costs, and a logical step might be increasing the outreach to those with drug convictions instead of simply sending them to jail. Call it the preventative approach. The likelihood a first-time offender will return to jail decreases by 67 percent when they get treatment for substance abuse. That appears to be a practical way not only to help people, but also reduce the costs to taxpayers.
Some might object to the cost of providing drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration, but guess what? It’s actually cheaper to enroll in the Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison Program (DTAP) than it is to send them to jail. It costs $32,974 compared to $64,388 for prison. When someone is enrolled in DTAP, the chances of them being arrested drops by 64 percent, while drug charges decrease by 51 percent.
The penal system in our country appears to be more concerned with punishments than actual corrections. It’s costing billions to lock up people who could be treated instead with intervention and teaching programs. Many people who commit drug offenses are simply trying to pay for their next fix. They are not violent, and they do not cause harm to others. By trying to rehabilitate them, the state or federal government could actually be investing in the future.
Interestingly, the vast majority of drug arrests — 81.9 percent — are related to possession and not distribution. Logically, you might think it would make sense to cut off the drug supply at the source, in which case the small possession charges would not pop up as frequently. In 2009, the U.S. government spent more than $2 billion housing drug-related prisoners.
In California alone, that tally was $44 million, while in Texas it was $41.6 billion. Even in less-populous states such as North Carolina and Illinois, the bill was still more than $10 million. Drug treatment seems like a logical way to cut down on those expenses.
Yanking Out the Root
If you have weeds in your garden, you need to yank them at the root. If you don’t, that weed will keep growing over and over again from the root. The same goes for drug arrests. If you don’t rehabilitate the person struggling with addiction, you will find him or her arrested again and again on possession charges. Why not address that problem by using drug treatment programs rather than engage in the same cycle of arrests and spending taxpayer dollars? As this infographic shows, that’s a very expensive circle.
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