By Evelyn Robinson
In the past few weeks, several news sources have released information on a recent study that was conducted in West Virginia that showed promise in the suggestion that substance abuse treatment programs could help to alleviate the overcrowding issues that have long plagued the American criminal justice system. The study pointed to evidence that rehabilitation programs offered during parole, probation, or even in the absence of jail time could help to lower crime rates and keep prisons from reaching maximum capacity due to the prevalence of drug-related convictions in recent years. However, while the pros to this controversial new idea may seem plenty, the cons are quickly proving to be potentially disastrous.
A recent 2012 Government Accountability Office report declared that although drug offenders are the single-largest category of prisoners in the federal prison system, in 2011, more than 51,000 were held on waiting lists for basic drug-education programs, which could help to facilitate early release and work towards rehabilitation. The problem is heavily budget-related, with many states claiming that wait lists are a direct by-product of the inability to keep a full rehabilitation program staffed as well as the ever-increasing issue of overcrowded facilities.