In an effort to cut state spending, lawmakers are considering change to criminal sentencing. Among those potential changes—identifying offenders with drug problems and mental health issues, and treating those afflictions through treatment rather than solely through incarceration.
The Legislature heard testimony on Monday from a variety of sources, including one Texas lawmaker who came to share what saved his state potentially billions of dollars. Rep. Jerry Madden stated “If someone’s a drug addict, break their habit.”
He said offenders can be placed in three categories: those who will not return to prison, those who will return to prison, and those who might be able to stay crime-free if their addiction and mental health issues are addressed.
And for those who argue drug treatment is being soft on crime, he pointed out that for an addict, treatment is more difficult than prison. Quitting is hard but if you can get an addict to pursue sobriety, you can keep him out of prison.
The opposition states that it’s difficult to convince legislators to make these necessary changes because of politics—largely because they will be seen as soft on crime. But, if the changes are logical and save the state money, voters would have little to argue with. It’s the one liner campaign strategies that muddle the waters.
The public wants to be safe and they want to reduce spending. Even the far right is in on criminal justice reform these days, so it’s difficult to say the problem has to be a political one. It would, instead, take true leadership from these people that the public has put in office. And unless one of them made campaign promises to continue needless incarceration or counterproductive policies, it doesn’t seem like it would be a hard sell.
Sending an addict to jail or prison with no treatment doesn’t only cost more, it increases the likelihood that they’ll one day return, still addicted. Recognizing issues like drug addiction and mental illness as public health issues will help in reallocating funds to actually prevent crime rather than penalize it on the back end. After all, which is safer—preventing crime or waiting for it to happen?
If you’re facing criminal charges, you need help and advice. Whether you have an addiction problem or mental health issues that you’ve neglected-being arrested can sometimes lead to the help you need. Contact our attorneys today for a free consultation on your criminal case and to discuss what options might be available to you.