• Introduction •
While there is no definitive answer as to why crime rates have declined so substantially in the United States since 1994, the expansion of drug courts, referrals to addiction treatment, and other collaborations between criminal justice and drug and alcohol treatment systems around the country have played important roles. When law enforcement and addiction treatment professionals work together to provide treatment for individuals still under the supervision of the criminal justice system, along with continuing care and services to facilitate their successful reentry into society, drug use and recidivism rates decrease, while community health and safety improve.
Successful partnerships, combined with the scientific breakthroughs by researchers supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in understanding addiction and identifying the most effective ways to treat it, point the way to how our nation can make even greater progress in reducing drug use and the criminal activity that often accompanies it.
There is still a long way to go, however. While more than half the people in every stage of the criminal justice system are addicted to or have misused drugs and alcohol, most of them never receive any treatment; recent data indicates that fewer than 18 percent of state and Federal prisoners report having received drug treatment since their incarceration.1 With approximately eight million people under supervision of the criminal justice system—nearly 3 million incarcerated in state and Federal prisons and 5 million under community-based supervision—and millions more cycling through local jail systems, we have the opportunity to more broadly apply tools shown to be effective in reducing crime and rebuilding lives, families, and communities. This is both a public health and public safety issue that offers the chance of better outcomes both for individuals and for communities experiencing the fallout from high rates of drug-related crime and limited access to addiction treatment.
Public support has grown dramatically for sensible policy responses that integrate treatment into the criminal justice system. Public opinion surveys show that the American people widely support smarter, more effective approaches to reducing criminal activity, such as increased use of drug and alcohol treatment. A recent Zogby national public opinion poll of American attitudes toward rehabilitation and reentry of prisoners into their home communities showed that the U.S. voting public, by an 8 to 1 margin (87% to 11%), favors rehabilitative services for people in prison as opposed to a punishment-only system; 70 percent of those polled support services both during incarceration and after release from prison2 In addition, nearly 80 percent of those polled said drug treatment was an important service that should be offered to prisoners.3
The goal of this website is to provide cutting-edge practical information and tools to policymakers and practitioners in both the criminal justice and drug and alcohol treatment systems, based on the most up-to-date scientific knowledge that NIDA and other researchers have gleaned. It is in everyone’s interest to identify and implement evidence-based approaches for promoting law-abiding behavior, sobriety, and productivity, and thereby help curb the devastating cycle of addiction, re-arrest, and re-incarceration.
This website reflects the most up-to-date and useful scientific findings, as it poses and answers nine Key Questions about drug addiction and treatment and their link to crime and reentry, and presents nine Public Policy Lessons about the most effective ways to address them.
1 An Examination of Drug Treatment Programs Needed to Ensure Successful Re-entry - Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives, Testimony offered by Nora D. Volkow, M.D. Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services, February 8, 2006
2 “Attitudes of U.S. Voters toward Prisoner Rehabilitation and Reentry Policies,” National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Barry Krisberg, PhD and Susan Marchionna, April 2006.