An increasing number of states and policymakers are coming forward to provide treatment to those incarcerated for opioid-related offenses. However, New Jersey does not seem to believe in this policy. The state recently proposed a bill that talks about increasing the prison term by at least four years for the possession, selling and manufacturing of drugs. The above measure has been undertaken due to the recent explosion in drug use in New Jersey because of opioid crisis.
The ongoing trend suggests that users usually begin with prescription painkiller and later switch to more easily available drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Though possession of such dangerous drugs is already a serious crime in New Jersey, the proposed bill includes some stringent punishments.
Increasing the penalty for the first, second and third degree charges, the bill proposes changes in the number of years of imprisonment. Instead of three to five years of prison time, a person caught with a possession of 5 grams of heroin would undergo five to 10 years of imprisonment. Similarly, if someone is caught with 10 grams of heroin, he or she could be incarcerated for 10 to 20 years instead of three to five years. Roseanne Scotti, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “This bill is really a return to the failed policies of the past. These increased sentences cost us a lot of money. They do nothing to reduce the availability or purity of drugs on the street.”
Disputes over controversial proposed bill
Although the bill targets drug dealers, many fear that the changes will prove harsher for the users possessing small amounts of drugs. The sceptics have expressed doubts over the outcome of harsher punishments for drug offenses. Instead of reducing the availability of drugs, increased sentences will increase economic burden on the government treasury. The critics have requested the policymakers to treat drug abuse as a health concern instead of a criminal justice issue.
In 2014, there was a bipartisan push for scaling back the jail time for drug-related offenses at the federal level due to the rising incarceration costs and the absence of any positive outcomes. The present administration and people like Attorney General Jeff Sessions have advocated an increase in the penalties for drug offenders, despite the fact that incarceration has never been an effective solution. On the contrary, the previous administration as a part of clemency granted commutations to 1,715 non-violent drug offenders.
Since the people who are incarcerated get minimal or no treatment, their chances of re-offending and thus, incarceration are higher. Dr. Robert Foss, a social psychologist at the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina, shared that human beings are ignorant to the evidence. Therefore, if the incarceration is not giving any positive results, this evidence fails to override a gut feeling that it should work. As a result, some people continue to vouch for a stricter punishment.
Road to recovery
Despite being a chronic mental disorder, depression is treatable. Unfortunately, most of the individuals abusing substances do not receive treatment and tend to get apprehended for drug-related crimes. Due to insufficient treatment, they also witness a range of psychiatric problems that stem from the long-term use of a substance.
Any person who is addicted to a psychoactive substance can get involved in a risky behavior, such as unsafe sexual practices, verbal or physical abuse, drunk driving, fights, injuries and suicide. Sovereign Health’s Court Services function as a legal support for our patients. Our experts provide legal counsel and representation to those in need. In order to safeguard patients’ interests by ensuring right treatment instead of incarceration for delinquency, our representatives accompany them to the court and serve as a moderator between the judge and the district attorney. Sovereign Health does not provide legal services, but we do play an active role by providing:
- Progress reports to the court for the patients in treatment
- Clinical assessments of a patient’s treatment progress
- Letters of recommendation to judges regarding treatment
- Referrals to criminal law attorneys and other practice specialties—many firms offer free initial consultations
- Transportation to and from court and treatment facilities
If you or your loved one has been charged or convicted of a nonviolent and nonserious drug-related offense in California, Sovereign’s Court Services can help. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-433-7698 or chat online with one of our experts to know more.