The two most-commonly proposed policy solutions for drug-fueled crime are alike only in being wrong. The hard-edged approach, whether borne of anger, fear or frustration, is to bang up as many intoxicated offenders as possible. Politicians who adopt this stance rarely suffer at the ballot box, but in policy terms they’re on a hiding to nothing. The prison system is already financially costly and filled to capacity, and even were it expanded there is no evidence that the threat or even the actuality of a stint in prison causes many drug-involved offenders to change their behaviour.
The soft-hearted, equally misguided, policy alternative is to attack the problem by offering addiction treatment to all drug-using offenders. Addiction treatment is a critical part of the health care system and does indeed reduce criminal offences by those who seek it out. But few offenders present for treatment on a voluntary basis, and when magistrates order them to it en masse (as have unsuccessful programmes in the UK and in California) most offenders either don’t show up or nod gamely through a counselling session or two and then return to drug use.
That’s yours truly writing about ways to reduce crime by and incarceration of drug-involved criminal offenders, particularly when the drug of concern is alcohol. Full article text available for free in Crossbow, the magazine of the Bow Group think tank in London.