Offender treatment: 'You're doing it backwards'




Shannon Brys

Behavioral Healthcare

May 16, 2014



Recent reports have alluded to the fact that prisons and jail systems are the new “holding tank” for mentally ill and addicted individuals. Throughout the years, professionals have created plans to solve the issue, but the cycle continues. Douglas Marlow, chief of science, law and policy at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals said, “We shouldn’t be punishing people for having a substance abuse or mental illness, we should be diverting them to treatment.”  

The three “masters” he said criminal justice policies have been chasing are: lowering costs, protecting public safety and saving lives. He explained to the audience at the 2014 National Council for Behavioral Health conference that “you are the latest victim of our understanding to the problem.”

Once the policy of sending people to prison proved to be highly expensive and had lower outcomes in terms of treatment for those who were addicted and mentally ill, the policies shifted to the complete opposite side of the spectrum, he said.

Now, officials and the public believe that if offenders are sent to treatment instead of prison, “magic will occur,” public safety will improve and money and lives will be saved. However, Marlowe explained that this won’t be the case because providers are not prepared for the large population of offenders entering the treatment system.


Full article at




Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee