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January 11, 2013

New report urges Texas to save money and improve public safety via drug treatment

As detailed via this article in the Texas Tribune, headlined "Report: Invest in Drug Treatment Instead of Punishment," a detailed new report is pitching Texas lawmakers to spend more resources on treatment for drug offenders. Here is the start of the article (which includes a link to the report):

Instead of throwing drug addicts in jail, the state should invest more money in substance abuse treatment, says a report issued Thursday by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which adds that the move could provide millions of dollars in savings and improve public safety.

“You cannot cure addiction by locking it up,” said Ana Yáñez Correa, executive director of the coalition. “It doesn’t cure it; it makes it worse.” 

In Texas, arrests for drug possession have increased 32 percent in the last decade, and about 90 percent of all drug-related arrests are for possession — not dealing, according to the report. In 2011, the nearly 15,000 inmates in jails and prisons on drug possession offenses statewide cost taxpayers more than $725,000 daily. The coalition argues that providing more state resources for treatment would be less costly and would prevent crimes associated with drug use. 

Since 2007, lawmakers have directed money that would have been invested in building new facilities for a growing inmate population to diversion, probation and treatment programs. As a result, the prison population has fallen so much that in 2011 lawmakers for the first time closed a Texas prison, the Central Unit in Sugar Land. And this year, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, has said lawmakers should consider shuttering two additional units.

But in the face of a $27 billion budget shortfall in 2011, lawmakers curtailed the growth of some of the diversion and treatment programs that had helped slow the incarceration rate in Texas. Without more investment in those kinds of programs, Texas prisons and jails could again exceed their capacity by 2014, according to the report. 

While Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates nationally, the report notes, it has one of the lowest drug treatment admission rates. In 2009, more than 53,500 outpatient and residential treatments slots were available statewide, and a waitlist with more than 14,000 names. Forcing addicts who are seeking treatment to wait can have dire consequences, including the commission of crimes that land them behind bars.

January 11, 2013 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

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Comments

" "about 90 percent of all drug-related arrests are for possession — not dealing, according to the report." "

The chance of catching someone in the act of distributing--done possibly for 1 hour in the day--versus catching someone in possession--24 hours of the day...

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 11, 2013 12:58:31 PM

So you think all those possession arrests were really of dealers, Adamkis? That's laughable. In Houston, the new DA wants police to scrape traces out of crack pipes so they can charge people with possession of drugs instead of paraphernalia (i.e., a felony instead of a misdemeanor). That's the sort of low-level offender driving up the numbers.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 11, 2013 2:18:03 PM

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