Drug Policy Reform and Rehabilitation Opportunities to Reduce Recidivism and Improve Lives

  • Isaac Hoffman San Francisco State University


The drug crisis in the United States is one of extreme magnitude, and one that is highly divisive because there is no clear solution.  There are certainly some people who will never have the desire to get clean nor to stay out of prison; and they will remain in a cyclical system of release and re-arrests.  However, many addicts and other chronic drug offenders do in fact desire to get clean and lead legitimate lives, but it is impossible to accomplish this without a proper support system or while living on the streets.  That is why I believe it is essential to shift the criminal justice system’s focus from a punitive one to a rehabilitative one, in cases in which there is a clear problem that must be addressed (e.g., homelessness, addiction, unemployment, mental health).  This literature review utilizes both qualitative and quantitative studies with evidence to support the following claim:  More lenient sentences for low-level drug crimes, combined with wider utilization of rehabilitation-oriented programs (e.g., drug counseling, job training, education, and treatment for addicts), will produce a drop in recidivism numbers.  In addition, it will save money, and improve the overall quality of life of ex-offenders and addicts.  The qualitative studies in this literature review make cogent arguments to the unjustness of drug crime sentencing, and provide insight into the benefits of rehabilitative-focused methods.  The quantitative studies in this review also find benefits in rehabilitative-focused drug court and prison educational/job-training participation.  These benefits are not only represented in reductions of future criminal behavior, but also improvements in other socioeconomic factors.