Substance abuse takes on many forms, along with even more varied responses to treatment attempts, and recently, steps have been taken by law officials to create a more proactive, unique response to the individual cases presented to them.
In Erie County, Pennsylvania, a judge passed down a sentence that would allow a man who struggles with alcohol addiction, being cited for DUI and alcohol related charges at least five times in the past, an opportunity to continue battling his addiction while still keeping the community as safe as possible.
The sentence imposed is one based on helping the defendant avoid jail time in order to continue providing for himself and his family, as well as keeping him off the roads while he seeks rehab services. The man will face initial prison time, then work-release, and finally, living at home with an imposed 11 p.m. curfew and a five-year suspended license sentence.
While this sentence is not the first of its kind, it does show a gradual shift in the changing attitudes of battling addiction. In the past, judges have been able to require court-mandated recovery programs in lieu of prison time, and a sentence such as this one aims to reach the same goal: recover through rehabilitation, not incarceration. The perception of addiction is beginning to shift away from one of punishment to one of help, accountability and perseverance.
Although these sentences are far from common, like many initiatives, it is a first step in a much larger picture. Discussion surrounding drug and alcohol abuse, recovery and prevention is key to helping our nation combat drug and alcohol addictions and ultimately, helping us tailor a better response to our growing understanding of addiction.