Mandated Treatment: Is it Helping?

by juliette on November 4, 2013

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TreatmentIf a person is convicted of a crime stemming from an incident when they were under the influence of drugs at the time — and have no previous convictions, are addicted to drugs or alcohol, are willing to comply with a court mandate, and are willing to plead guilty to the crime — they may be able to avoid prison by agreeing to enter a mandated drug rehabilitation program instead. Their case may be transferred to a drug court, where the convicted will avoid jail by agreeing to serve a rehabilitation sentence instead.

Whether or not court ordered rehab works is up for debate, as many argue that rehab must be voluntary, not mandated, in order to be effective. However, certain research proves the contrary: that participants of forced rehabilitation do just as well or better than their voluntary counterparts.

Data on Effectiveness of Mandated Treatment
The National Criminal Justice Reference Systems has published data supporting the use of court-order rehabilitation. Before detailing the why of how forced rehabilitation works, it is essential to look at the hard numbers. In a study that examined 11 separate cases of compulsory substance abuse cases, the outcomes of these cases suggested that use of the criminal justice system was an effective means of treatment. Out of the 11 cases that analyzed the relationship between legal coercion and treatment outcomes, four reported no behavioral differences after treatment, two cases had a negative outcome, and five –the majority– reported a positive outcome.

Why Mandated Treatment Works
In the same report mentioned above, researchers concluded that one of the main reasons mandated treatment works so well is the fact that ‘mandatory’ is not synonymous with ‘involuntary,’ suggesting that many people who enter rehabilitation programs on a court order desire to participate in the programs regardless of their court sentence. In a study of male inmates in Texas, 50 percent of surveyed inmates stated that they would be interested in participating in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program even if it meant extending their prison stay by three months.

Another study showed that clients who enter treatment under suggestion (not requirement) from the judicial system would have perhaps sought treatment anyway, with 39.8 percent of clients stating that they think they would have entered treatment regardless. For those clients who entered treatment as a requirement from a court mandate, 42.6 percent reported that they think they would have entered rehab without pressure from the judicial system.

The role of internal motivation is incredibly important when talking about drug or alcohol rehabilitation. While some entering court ordered rehabilitation might not be internally motivated right away, the program may still work. With time, patients can become more accepting of their addictive tendencies, and more willing to submit themselves to treatment.

Conditions for Ensuring Effective Treatment
While data has shown that court-mandated drug and alcohol rehabilitation is just as effective as voluntary rehabilitation, researchers have found that this effectiveness is conditional to the following terms: the period of intervention should be lengthy, ideally between 3-9 months; treatment programs should provide a high level of structure and include psychiatric services, vocational training, and GED options for clients on an individual basis; programs must undergo consistent evaluation to determine their level of effectiveness; and programs must be flexible and able to meet the needs of all clients.

This article was written by University of Washington’s Criminal Justice student Dee Bronnwin.  She is studying to work in the justice department as an officer but also has an interest in criminal defense.  If you have been charged with a DUI click here.

I represent may great writers who are passionate about sharing their knowledge of law and publishing interesting and useful advice.

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