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How does CD treatment reduce crime? Why not just put people in jail or prison?

Chemical dependency treatment does work wonders, although it doesn’t always succeed in producing sustainable abstinence. A harm reduction model, one of reducing harm to self, to others, and to community is a treatment model used by many clinics. There are many studies in the US and world wide which demonstrate the harm reduction principle of crime reduction.

NIDA in 1999 indicated that drug treatment reduces drug use by 40-60% (for all types of treatment), and significantly reduces criminal activity during and after treatment. Data from a three city field study of New York City, Baltimore and Philadelphia showed that 71% of 338 methadone patients in treatment for over a year had ceased IV drug use, and needle sharing declined markedly. Lifetime arrest rates of 151 male patients in Baltimore demonstrated a substantial reduction after admission to methadone treatment- an 85% decrease in the annual arrest rate in comparison to the addiction years (NIDA, 1994). A NIDA 1999 study for drug offenders demonstrates that arrests for violent and nonviolent criminal acts were reduced by 40% or more. Methadone maintenance has been shown to decrease criminal behavior by as much as 50% (NIDA 1999).

The costs or incarceration are very high, as the local community knows from having just built a new jail. While consequences are necessary, and some people need to be in jail for a period of time, many times diversion to treatment is a good option. It costs 3 to 4 times as much to jail someone as it does to send them to many medication assisted recovery treatment programs. The psychosocial program appears to cost a similar amount as jail if you look at the very short term, or first 60 to 90 days. This of course does not consider that people can and do recover, that people can stay at school or work, and that families can be kept intact or become functional. However, a very risky time for people to use and re-offend is when they are released from jail, so that individual still needs treatment services. Work with local and regional law enforcement to help people stay out of trouble by recovering good judgment and good choices that return with treatment is needed for success. Learn more by watching the WYNK flash videos.


by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.



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