As an initial matter, society is turning more and more to alternative treatments for minor drug offenders. As stated in a research study by the U.S. Department of Justice, there are a number of potential types of alternative treatments available, such as residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, drug education, pharmacological interventions, community-based therapeutic programs, and relapse prevention programs (Peyton and Gossweiler, 2001: 7). A careful analysis can match Mr. Smith with an alternative treatment program for his particular type of abuse.
In addition, there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that therapeutic options might be more relevant to eliminating the underlying behavior which resulted in the drug offense. More particularly, there has been a rather long-standing perception, by the public and by researchers in general, that drug use per se leads to more advanced criminal behaviors. Indeed, much of the drug debate centers on this very premise that recidivism and progressively worse criminal actions are inevitable. The data, however, does not support such an attenuated conclusion; quite the contrary, the research demonstrates that there are similar risk factors for both the abuse of drugs and criminal behavior. In short, incarceration does nothing to deal with Mr. Smith’s underlying risk factors.
More specifically, there is a demonstrable impact of substance abuse on criminal behavior that is relevant to incarceration decisions. Such a general statement, however, is of little use without a closer examination of the specific impacts. The types of criminal behaviors that result from substance abuse, for example, tend to be limited and, in many cases, predictable. As an illustration, heroin abuse does lead to financial criminal behaviors; that is, the abusers commit crimes with the specific objective being the financing and re-financing of their heroin habits. A more general