Vice Squad
Monday, March 22, 2004
Mixed Feelings

According to today's Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois Governor, Rob Blagojevich, has proposed that a new job training facility be created at the nation's only correctional facility focusing exclusively on drug treatment. The center is located in southern Illinois. The purpose of the facility is to reduce recidivism rates for drug offenders, which I am all for. I also think that treatment is important for those addicts that want it.

However, if we turn more and more to coerced treatment programs instead of jail time, I'm afraid people will fail to fully understand the horrors of our current drug policy. Treatment is often coercive; i.e., one doesn't really need treatment, but would rather do time in a treatment facility than in a maximum security prison, and so accepts treatment as an alternative to jail time. Further, even if someone serves their time for a drug crime in a treatment facility, they'll come out with a criminal record. It's hard to shake that stigma, no matter how much job training you get. Treatment facilities still lock you up, take you away from your family, and marginalize you.

Drug treatment is woefully inadequate in this country, and I believe there should be more treatment options available. That should not cloud the underlying issue though that our drug laws remain barbaric and unjust. Treatment should be there when people want it, or need it. However, forcing someone to undergo treatment for simple possession of an illegal substance is no more humane than locking them up in jail.

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