Because of this, many continue to view substance use as a criminal activity that needs to be punished rather than a chronic illness that needs to be treated.
- Law enforcement and court officials are called upon to intervene for those addicted, even though they may have little or no knowledge of addiction and treatment.
- Only about half of the drug courts in the United States allow offenders to receive medication-assisted treatment.2
- Strategies to create buy-in with the criminal justice system need to consider the punishment perspective, the limited understanding of addiction, the mandate to monitor prisoners/probationers, and the law itself.
The public safety impact
A primary focus of the criminal justice system is the monitoring and enforcement of behavior. Drug courts and jails that see how medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine improves compliance, re-arrest and re-incarceration rates have begun to embrace and advocate for its use. Some drug courts have also secured funding to increase the availability of buprenorphine for opioid-dependent offenders.
Treatment as a legal requirement
The final, persuasive, influence for the criminal justice system is the law itself. Use of any of the FDA-approved medications for treatment of a substance use disorder is seen as a proper, legal medical procedure that cannot be denied due to legal status.
Providing education and training about buprenorphine and its effectiveness will help to secure buy-in from staff, clients, physicians, the communtiy, and the criminal justice system.
Read more about ways to secure buy-in from the criminal justice system:
And innovative criminal justice programs to address the opioid epidemic:
Page Updated: 09/28/2020
1 Federal Bureau of Prisons: Statistics on Offenses: https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offenses.jsp
2 Matusow, H., Dickman, S. L., Rich, J. D., Fong, C., Dumont, D. M., Hardin, C., … & Rosenblum, A. (2013). Medication assisted treatment in US drug courts: Results from a nationwide survey of availability, barriers and attitudes. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 44(5), 473-480.