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Treatment or Incarceration – Which One is Better?

Home » Blog » Treatment or Incarceration – Which One is Better?

In 1987, the American Medical Association (AMA) classified addiction as a disease. Prior to that, addiction was known merely as an “illness.” Despite being identified as disease for more than thirty years, addiction is still highly stigmatized as being a personal choice. For those who have never experienced addiction in any capacity, seeing someone they loved struggle with it can be mind-boggling — “How can someone keep using when they are causing so much damage?” This is a common thought of many, especially because ending use often appears simpler than it really is. The truth of the matter is that disease of addiction is not a choice, rather a progressive disease of the brain. And unfortunately, many of those who are hooked on drugs and alcohol find themselves at a crossroads between treatment or incarceration. Fortunately, Hathaway Recovery offers drug court programming for individuals who are deciding between treatment or incarceration.

Incarceration and Addiction 

In 2016, slightly less than 16% of the entire incarcerated population in the United States were serving time for a drug offense. The most common drug offenses include:

  • Possession of controlled substances
  • Possession with intent to sell
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Drug trafficking
  • Drug manufacturing and cultivation

These and other drug offenses carry sentences that range from a few years to life in prison. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), someone in America is arrested every 25 seconds for drug possession. And while not everyone who is arrested for drug possession is addicted to drugs, there are many people who are.

Unfortunately, when someone goes to jail for a drug crime, it is likely that if they were already addicted to drugs that they will remain addicted to drugs. There is also a high possibility that if they didn’t have an addiction to drugs prior to incarceration that they will develop one behind bars. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 65% of the United States prison rate has a substance use disorder. Another 20% did not meet the criteria needed for a diagnosis of a substance use disorder but were drunk or high at the time of their arrest.

Incarceration Does More Harm Than Good

Placing individuals into jails or prisons as a result of a drug crime related to their addiction often results in further substance abuse as opposed to rehabilitation. As mentioned before, more than half of the prison population is addicted to drugs, making it an environment that is not conducive to wellness and recovery. That does not mean that people cannot get sober while incarcerated, however it does mean that the challenge of doing so is much greater in this setting. Several factors within prisons work against recovery, including the following:

  • Drug trafficking and dealing
  • Consistent use of illegal drugs and alcohol by other inmates
  • Being forced into dealing by other inmates
  • Being tempted to use again due to the overwhelming strife of being imprisoned

Drugs are no strangers to prisons. In fact, many inmates make their money by trafficking in and dealing drugs. Being a dealer affords an inmate clout among their peers, giving them a top-dog status and some protection from others. Getting involved in dealing and using while in prison is simply inevitable for some, especially for those who are attracted to the life of drug dealing and using. 

Even though prisons are hotbeds for addiction, there are several people who are sent to prison and who have gotten sober while there. Many prisons offer treatment services for those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, as well as 12-Step meetings and other group therapies. As one can imagine, however, getting the strength to accept treatment while in a place like prison is an insurmountable challenge for some. That is because the environment in prisons are suppressive and include the following:

  • Limited access to the outdoors
  • Supervision while doing most things, including using the bathroom
  • Small cells, often without windows
  • Constant sound/chaos/ruckus caused by other inmates in the block
  • Presence of violent inmates 
  • Mean and/or aggressive corrections officers 

Recovery is not simple. Being incarcerated while trying to get sober adds a thick, nearly impenetrable layer to an already complex situation. That is why treatment, not incarceration, is recommended for those facing jail time due to drug charges.

Treatment or Incarceration?

Addiction treatment has proven time and time again to help addicted individuals overcome their struggles with active addiction. That is because professional addiction treatment offers the following benefits:

  • Licensed and compassionate medical and mental health professionals
  • Clean, quiet, and secure environment
  • Freedom to move about the facility as desired 
  • Access to phones, computers, mail, etc. so patients can remain in touch with loved ones (if in residential treatment)
  • Comfortable living quarters (if in residential care)
  • Ability to continue to live at home while getting treatment (if in outpatient treatment)
  • Access to others who are actively participating in their recovery, too 
  • Ability to develop a strong support system among other patients and family 

These are just some of the many benefits of getting professional treatment as opposed to being incarcerated for drug activity. In a treatment program, regardless of if it is residential or outpatient, individuals are looked at with hope and promise as opposed to people with a dark past and an even darker future. 

The negative stigma surrounding addiction is still alive and well, especially in reserved, conservative places like jails and prisons. While there are certainly jails and prisons with great treatment programming, the vast majority of them require deep reform. Thankfully, more and more attention is now being paid to the placement of drug offenders in treatment facilities as opposed to jails. 

Addiction Treatment in Claremont, California

While there is great promise for the future regarding the treatment of addicted drug offenders, there are still countless challenges facing addicted individuals in America (especially those connected to criminal behavior). Don’t let the choice of getting treatment or going to jail come down to the courts. Hathaway Recovery offers drug court programming. Call us right now to learn more about how we can help you overcome your addiction and change your life on your terms.


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    Gayane A.
  • Hathaway truly saved my life. I am so grateful to have had an opportunity to go there. I came in at absolute rock bottom, 9 rehabs later and countless sober livings. I can tell you that this treatment center is different then every other one I’ve ever been to.

    Justin J.
  • Hathaway Recovery Center is the real deal. They helped me find myself when I was completely lost. After I lost the mother of my child due to a tragic accident. The therapists and counselors truly cared. We made a relationship with each other that was unbreakable. The other clients were awesome roommates and true to me. The house managers were great and the living situations were awesome. If I ever even think about slipping up I’ll be returning. Today I have over one year clean.

    Jimmie R.
  • After running into some trouble with the law, a substance abuse counselor suggested that I check myself into Hathaway Recovery. Hathaway Recovery helped me get my life back together one step at a time. Through discipline, routine, and structure, I can honestly say that this treatment center has helped me tremendously! The staff are very helpful and caring to each person’s needs, and helped me to realize the beauty of living a sober life.

    Josh M.
  • Hathaway Recovery stuff saw potential In me when I couldn’t. They showed me a new way of life, a better life. Coming to Hathaway recovery is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m beyond grateful for everything the program has done for me!

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  • Finally, Hathaway is a Treatment Center that offers a holistic approach to addiction. This center offers a safe place, community and a network to grow with throughout your recovery process. They make you feel that you are NOT alone. The leadership has been in your shoes!!! Hathaway Recovery is more than just a temporary fix, it is a foundation, a movement, a family to be a part of.

    Anthony P.
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    Ashley A.
  • Hathaway Recovery and their staff have been nothing but supportive and understanding throughout our family member’s journey. I truly appreciate all the staff and their hard work. The communication has been great and has provided us a really positive experience. I would highly recommend this facility to anyone looking for a rehabilitation center for themselves or a loved one. Thank you Hathaway Recovery!

    Lilit H.
  • Hathaway Recovery is a very solid, very friendly place. My boyfriend decided to go here and has spent a significant amount of time at the recovery house. They are very good at bringing clients to meetings and on fun outings occasionally! Hathaway is committed to their clients’ recovery and their sobriety and to helping them in any way possible. They go above and beyond for the clients and I definitely would recommend considering Hathaway for your sobriety/recovery.

  • Hathaway is a warm caring treatment oriented environment to receive help from various addictions and behavioral problematic issues. The location itself is serene and safe.. I enjoyed the both staff/professional’s and patient’s… It has many services available, a very unique place… I recommend anyone to come and receive long-term treatment here at Hathaway…

  • Hathaway Recovery is a very solid, very friendly place. My boyfriend decided to go here and has spent a significant amount of time at the recovery house. They are very good at bringing clients to meetings and on fun outings occasionally! Hathaway is committed to their clients’ recovery and their sobriety and to helping them in any way possible. They go above and beyond for the clients and I definitely would recommend considering Hathaway for your sobriety/recovery.

  • “There was no longer any doubt in my mind that I was in the right place for my drug abuse treatment, “Of all the rehabs I could have chosen, I am glad I picked The Hathaway Recovery Support hope respect and care is what i was offered thanks for everything Hathaway recovery you are the best

  • Hathaway Recovery is an awesome place the whole staff has been so helpful they are very professional and very nice Hathaway recovery is a great place to get your addiction treated my brother is doing very well there and we are so glad they were very understanding and willing to help him.

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  • When your loved one is sick and needs help you look for the best and I found the best for my son thank you for everything you did for him.


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