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Stanton Peele

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What's Wrong With Sentencing People to Addiction Treatment?

Posted: 08/05/10 05:29 PM ET

News item: Lindsay Lohan has proceeded to rehab following her jail time, pursuant to a Los Angeles court's sentence for violating the conditions of her probation.

Dr. Drew: "If Lindsay Lohan were my daughter, I would pack her car full with illegal substances, send her on her way, call the police and make sure she was arrested."

First MSNBC commentator: "Isn't it ironic Lindsay Lohan was released from prison so quickly because prisons are overcrowded with drug offenders?"

Second MSNBC commentator: "Next time -- straight to rehab."

Is there anything wrong with arresting drug offenders and sending them to treatment (which is similar to drug courts that are popular around the United States)?

Here are six objections:

  1. The court system is already overloaded with drug offenders -- using courts to channel people into treatment adds to the baggage with which the system is overloaded.
  2. Drug courts have failed to show that providing counseling et al is more effective than the usual sanctions.
  3. We are mixing treatment and punishment -- to wit, many people are arrested for drug offenses; not all, not even a majority, are diagnosable addicts.
  4. It is illegal in California (and elsewhere in the United States) to force people into 12-step treatment according to the 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court's decision in Inouye v. Kemna, which follows similar decisions in other jurisdictions.*
  5. Most people, including Lindsay Lohan -- who has traveled this route before -- don't respond positively to coerced treatment, as described by Amy Coy.

  6. The American Psychiatric Association for the first time has proposed including in the next edition of its diagnostic manual a nonsubstance addiction: gambling. Does anyone doubt that subsequent editions will expand the list of "behavioral" addictions? Will we then sentence people to treatment for porn, sexual, shopping, exercise, romantic, video addiction?

Do we want to go down that road?

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* Defendant "does not, however, dispute that the program was substantially based in religion, and presents no evidence that the program differed from the usual AA/NA program, described by the Second Circuit in Warner as comprising 'intensely religious events,' and by the Seventh Circuit in Kerr as 'fundamentally based on a religious concept of a Higher Power.' . . . For the government to coerce someone to participate in religious activities strikes at the core of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."

 
 
 

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