The War on Drugs drastically changed the criminal treatment of illicit drug users in the United States. Changes in the 1980s brought about stricter sentencing laws for simple possession of unlawful substances. While the intent of the legislature was to prevent repeat offenders through the imposition of harsher penalties, these sterner consequences have forced countless individuals into a vicious cycle of incarceration without being offered the rehabilitative services needed to address substance abuse or addiction. Historically, the legal system has treated minor drug offenders in the same regard as those committing violent crimes. Inmates leaving American prisons often find themselves back in prison within several years. Despite high recidivism rates that do not appear to be on the decline, little has been done to address these issues since the 1980s. Although the passing of the First Step Act in December of 2018 addressed many of the obstacles that minor drug offenders face, much more can be done to improve recidivism rates in the United States. Part I provides a historical background on drug offenses in the United States and current approaches to rehabilitation. Particularly, it addresses how the criminal justice system operates separately and independently without communication from the medical community in rehabilitating minor drug of-fenders into society. Part II examines alternative approaches implemented by other countries around the world and their successes or failures. Part III pro-vides an analysis of how the United States could implement varying approaches and programs to support its current rehabilitative measures. Part IV highlights the main points with suggestions for how the United States should alter its rehabilitative measures moving forward.
Thomas Tyler Moses,
United States Penal System: Approaches to Rehabilitating Minor Drug Offenders and the Efforts of Governments to Reduce the Number of Incarcerated Individuals,
Rich. Pub. Int. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.richmond.edu/pilr/vol24/iss2/9