There is substantial and complicated overlap between addiction and criminal behavior. Some people even compare the correlation between crime and addiction to a chicken-and-egg situation because it’s often difficult to tell which one really came first.
Thanks to laws prohibiting the possession, distribution and use of many substances, people dealing with addiction can become criminals solely because of their addiction issues. Even if they have sought help, they could still wind up charged with a crime and incarcerated. Many people who commit crimes might do so in order to gain access to drugs or to money in order to support an addictive habit or chemical dependence.
Unfortunately, the criminal justice system focuses more on punishing addicts than on helping them. Criminal convictions for drug offenses often create a lack of social mobility because of the criminal record they create. That, the emotional damage of prison and the stigma attached to addiction all contribute to recidivism or repeat offenses involving those with substance abuse problems.
Many people don’t actually get sober in jail
Just like the outside world, most correctional facilities have thriving unregulated markets where people can purchase anything from single cigarettes to prohibited narcotics. Although some people are able to go dry while incarcerated and then maintain their sobriety, others may find that prison merely feeds into their cycle of addiction.
Many of the people in prison suffer from some form of substance abuse. Researchers have found that as many as 65% of inmates report symptoms that would result in the professional diagnosis of addiction or substance abuse conditions. Sadly, only 11% or so receive addiction support and counseling while in state or federal facilities for drug-related crimes or offenses stemming from addiction.
Staying out of jail could help people clean up their lives
Sometimes, getting arrested and charged with a drug offense is exactly what someone struggling with addiction needs to make drastic changes to their life. Seeking substance abuse therapy, going through mandatory rehab because of drug court and having the courage to ask for help can make a big difference for someone trying to move on from addiction after criminal charges.
Fighting back against those charges can also help set someone up for a brighter future, rather than one defined by addiction.