Research Position Paper – Tabitha Corrao

Prison Alternatives Benefit Everyone

In 1989, Brooklyn’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods became homes to crack-cocaine and heroin users. According to the Brooklyn’s District Attorney, “In that year, a record number of 12,732 felony drug arrests were made in Brooklyn.” As an attempt to clean up the streets, District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, a year later designed an alternative to prison program for nonviolent drug offenders. The Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) program was created to get repetitive nonviolent drug offenders the medical help they need with their addictions (Program Description).

Aside from helping drug offenders with their drug addictions, the Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) program is also known to be very beneficial for the community as well. The DTAP program, for the past few years, has contributed to the decline in drug related crimes and has made streets safer. In addition, the prison alternative program has also saved the community thousands of dollars when comparing the price of the DTAP program to the price of time at prison (Program Description). In order to understand why the DTAP program is so successful, you first need to know what drug offenders this program targets to help and how the program was designed to help the DTAP participants.

The first thing to know about the DTAP program is what drug offenders the program helps. In the US, each state has its own definition of drug offender. For example, according to New Jersey’s Statute 2C: 35B- 3 Definitions, a drug offender is an “Individual user of controlled dangerous substance” (New Jersey). In other words, someone who abuses drug, also known as a drug abuser, is a drug offender. The DTAP program only allows drug offenders to go through the program if they have a drug addiction because other drug offenders, such as drug dealers, have no usage of the program.

In addition to being a drug abuser, the program targets drug abusers that are repeat offenders. Before admission, the drug offender must also plead guilty to a nonviolent felony prior. In the plead agreement there are specific prison terms the participant must agree to. When DTAP participants agree to follow the terms, the participants are aware of what will happen if they fail treatment. The participants are given two opinions. Defendants who relapse that truly want help are given a second chance because the DTAP program realized relapse is part of the recovery process. The second opinion is to be put into prison and do the time you would if you had not been given the alternative (Program Procedures).

Now that we know which drug offenders the DTAP program targets to help, next is to understand what makes the program so successful. An argument someone could make about the DTAP program is drug rehabilitation does not always work for everyone. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set in 2008, 1,626,740 people were checked into some type of Substance Abuse Treatment Service. Of those 1,626,740 people about 38% were discharged because they dropped out of treatment, had treatment terminated by the facility, were incarcerated or failed to complete treatment for other reasons. That is about 618,161 people who did not complete rehabilitation in the year 2008 (TEDS).

In actuality, the DTAP program was specifically designed so participants would excel. Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA president and former U.S. Secretary of Health stated “This program in which failure is a one-way ticket to prison shows the effectiveness of coerced treatment” (Innovative). In other words, Joseph A. Califano means that fear alone makes DTAP so successful. Think about it. The DTAP program saves hundreds of repetitive drug offenders (who were most likely getting sent to prison if not for the DTAP program) from being sent to prison.

Another key ingredient to why the DTAP is successful is because it is longer than most drug rehabilitation centers.  According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, “DTAP participants remain in treatment six times longer than individuals in other long-term residential treatment (a median of 17.8 months compared to three months)” (Innovative). Studies have shown the longer an individual is in a long-term residential treatment center, the more likely they are to stay sober. District Attorney Charles J. Hynes purposely used statics and studies to design the unique program to make success come easy.

With that being said, we can now begin to learn how everyone in the community (not only DTAP participants) benefits from the DTAP program. The DTAP program has three main objectives. The first objective is reducing drug abuse, the second objective is improving street safety and the last objective is saving money (Executive Summary).

During the drug infestation in Brooklyn, there was a record number of drug related arrested in 1989. According to Brooklyn’s District Attorney, “by 2009, the number had decreased nearly 54 percent.” Although we can not say DTAP was the only factor to reduce drug crime rates, we can say it had an impact. We can say it had an impact because it was one of the few changes the Brooklyn’s District Attorney made. The DTAP’s two main objectives, reducing drug abuse and improving street safety, go hand and hand. What I mean is street safety has increased because drug abuse rates are low. The lower the drug abuse rate, the lower street safety decreases. They work hand and hand because drug abuser keep drug dealers in business. The longer drug dealers are in business and more likely they are to be caught which leads to drug crime rates to increase (Executive Summary).

The DTAP’s last objective is saving money. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, “The average cost for each DTAP participant of residential drug treatment, vocational training and support services was $32,975 compared to an average cost of $64,338 for the time spent in prison” (Innovative). In other words, the DTAP program is half the expense of spending someone to jail. Even though the program isn’t as expensive as prison, studies have shown DTAP participants are more likely to change their lifestyles and lead a drug free life. When comparing DTAP participant to prisoners, DTAP participant were less likely to be rearrested, re-convinced, and replaced back into jail (Crossing the Bridge).

All in all, states across America should be looking into prison alternative program like DTAP. Programs like DTAP are purposely designed so success can come easy. Alternative programs are very beneficial for not only participants but to the community as well.

Crossing the Bridge: An Evaluation of the Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison(DTAP) Program.“ CASAColumbia. TheNationalCenter on Addiction and Substance Abuse atColumbiaUniversity. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

Executive Summary.”  KCDA HOMEPAGE. District Attorney King County. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

New Jersey Statutes Anotated Title 2C:35B-3 Definitions

“INNOVATIVE DRUG TREATMENT ALTERNATIVE TO PRISON PROGRAM REDUCES CRIME, PRISON COSTS“. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2003. Web. 02 Apr. 2012.

Program Description.” KCDA HOMEPAGE. District Attorney King County. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

Program Procedures.”KCDA HOMEPAGE. District Attorney King County. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

“TEDS 2008 Discharge Report, Highlights.“ SAMHSA. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 19 Apr. 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2012.

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