Proposed Bill Would Offer Addiction Treatment For Misdemeanor Offenders

Oct 18, 2016

Credit Interiorrain / https://www.flickr.com/photos/photomemoriesflopes/

A group of Indiana lawmakers is recommending the General Assembly take up a draft bill that would offer addiction treatment to certain misdemeanor offenders.

The state currently offers such treatment to select low-level felons as part of the newly-formed Recovery Works program, which allows justice officials to decide whether to offer vouchers for services such as addiction counseling and detox programs.

The program is aimed at reducing recidivism by treating addiction as a disease, not a crime. According to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, approximately half of state and federal prison populations have a substance abuse disorder diagnosis. That number balloons to 75 percent in recidivist populations.

The new bill expands Recovery Works to include people convicted of less serious crimes, such as possession of drug paraphernalia.

Indianapolis Sen. Pat Miller wrote the draft legislation and says she’d like to see offenders caught before their crimes escalate into felony territory.

“If we can get them while they’re still at the misdemeanor level instead of waiting until they become felons, hopefully we can help detox them sooner,” Miller says. “It would be a more effective program.”

Miller says opening the program up should be a seen as a preventative measure. She also adds not all drug misdemeanors are created equal, and the committee would take that into consideration.

She says “the college student who just has a little marijuana” may not be a candidate for treatment, but “there may be another college student that is a user and has heroin, other kinds of addictions” that would be of more concern.

Miller says once drug abusers get to the point where they’re committing felonies, recovery is less likely to stick.  

She says appropriations for the program are not an entitlement — they’d be determined in the state budget.