Going to Jail to Get Sober: A Desperate Choice

Posted on June 9th, 2014

Going to Jail to Get Sober: A Desperate ChoiceMost people who end up in court and in front of a judge for drug offenses are addicted. The disease of addiction causes many people to make choices they wouldn’t have otherwise, to commit crimes in order to get money to feed their habit. Many also end up getting into trouble simply for possessing an illegal substance. For most of these addicts, getting assigned to rehab rather than serving jail time would seem like the most desirable option. Some, however, are desperate enough to get clean that they would rather go to prison.

Addicts Choosing Jail Time

A recent case in the U.K. illustrates how desperate drug addicts sometimes feel in the face of a life spiraling out of control. A young man in England requested that a judge sentence him to jail after robbing an ex-girlfriend’s home. The man had committed a long list of crimes, starting at the age of 13, to feed his habit of using heroin and crack. Facing the judge in court, he pleaded guilty and asked for time in prison, feeling he would not be able to stop committing crimes and using drugs otherwise.

Similar instances have been seen in U.S. courts. Minor celebrity and cast member on the reality show “Teen Mom,” Amber Portwood requested jail time over rehab when she faced a judge for drug possession and other charges. Having previously failed in a rehab facility, Portwood felt she could only come clean by doing jail time. Former baseball player Matt Bush committed a crime serious enough to ensure jail time, but even so chose an option that would give him more time in prison rather than less. As an alcoholic with multiple DUIs, Bush felt he couldn’t trust himself, even in rehab, to stay sober and not hurt anyone.

Jail vs. Rehab

The choices made by these people were desperate ones. To feel so overcome by addiction that prison seems like the only situation in which you could control your urges says a lot about the power of this disease. But did these people make the smartest choices? Are they truly better off serving time in prison than going through an intensive, residential rehab program? The answer may differ to some extent from individual to individual, but generally, no.

Unless a prison has a good rehab program, it is not the best place to get sober and to learn how to stay clean. If someone commits a drug-related crime and is given the option to seek treatment at a rehab facility, the costs of which would be covered, this is the best choice. However, if someone is not given the option of rehab, he may feel as if he could never afford good care and that prison is the best way to get clean. If the judicial system could better provide drug offenders with proper treatment, fewer would feel the need to go to jail.

Some people may cringe at the idea of paying for the addiction care of criminals, but doing so is the best option for society overall. Paying for rehab is less expensive than paying for prison time. Addicts are more likely to come out of rehab sober and with the skills and tools needed to live normally and to start contributing to society than if they went to prison. Feeling like jail is the only option means that addicts are in a critical situation. They realize that addiction is going to kill them and they want to take whatever steps will get them clean. We need to provide them with better options.

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