What Is Alternative Sentencing for Drug Offenders

What Is Alternative Sentencing for Drug OffendersAlternative sentencing for drug offenders is designed to address the problem of prison overpopulation and to provide for lasting drug abuse or addiction rehabilitation. Many state and local jurisdictions have passed regulations instituting alternative sentencing programs, determining who is eligible for them and setting program guidelines.

California Drug Charges and Alternative Sentencing Options

In California there are a number of possible drug-related criminal charges. These include drug possession, drug possession with the intent to sell, drug trafficking and drug manufacturing. All are considered felonies except for possession of marijuana which is a misdemeanor. Alternative sentencing options may include the following:

  • Proposition 36 – This program is specific to California and was adopted by the state’s voters in 2000. Under Proposition 36 guidelines, certain non-violent first and second-time drug offenders are allowed to receive addiction treatment in lieu of jail time. The program is not applicable for those facing charges of manufacturing or possession with intent to sell. It is also not available for those previously convicted of a serious or violent felony unless they have been out of prison for at least five years with no violence-related offences in the meantime. Offenders accepted into the Proposition 36 program are required to attend court-approved treatment programs. If the program is not completed, offenders must return to court and face traditional sentencing.
  • Drug court – Drug courts are common across the nation. Qualified defendants are required to undergo an extensive process involving drug testing, regular employment, appearances before the judge and payment of court costs. Programs can last up to 18 months, and after successful completion of the program the cases are dismissed. Mandated drug treatment varies. If only outpatient therapy is required, defendants can submit a request to enter a residential drug treatment program.
  • Diversion – This is also known as deferred entry of judgment. Offenders plead guilty to the drug charges and agree to participate in education classes. If they complete the classes, the case is dismissed after 18 months.
  • Job training and life skills development – Sometimes specific municipalities develop their own alternative sentencing programs. San Francisco offers a program known as Back on Track which offers young, first-time drug offenders job training, apprenticeships, child care, money-management training and GED preparation.

A 2010 article in Pacific Standard magazine notes that the average cost to incarcerate an individual is around $20,000 to $40,000 per year, but that Back on Track costs $5,000 per year per person and can provide lasting change.

Treat Your Addiction Now

Drug-related legal consequences can be serious and long-lasting. Don’t take the chance. Treat your addiction now. Counselors who staff our toll-free helpline can help you understand your treatment options or options for alternative sentencing. They can check your insurance coverage if you wish and can answer your questions and concerns about addiction, related legal issues and recovery. We are available around the clock and are ready to help you begin your journey to recovery now.

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