Wisconsin courts are now consistently facing the dilemma of having to sentence persons addicted to drugs for non-drug crimes. Such as when an addict commits a burglary to sell property to supply his/her habit. The prosecution may then try to argue that the defendant’s addiction does not matter since it is a burglary case, not a drug case.
The sentencing court must understand what drug addiction means. Some people betray a terrible misunderstanding of addiction when they suggest that if an addict is involved in the criminal justice system they can be simply ordered to stop using a drug. That thinking demonstrates ignorance about drug addiction. Drug addiction is a brain disease that affects behavior due to “brain changes, which accompany the transition from voluntary to compulsive drug use, affect the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers, causing the addicted person to use drugs in spite of the adverse health, social, and legal consequence.” Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations – A Research- Based Guide, (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, revised April 2014) p.15. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-abuse-treatment-criminal-justice-populations-research-based-guide/are-all-drug-abusers-in-criminal-justice-system-good. That is why those in the criminal system interested in really solving addiction issues do not seek punishment immediately for the addict who uses while in the criminal system. Instead, honesty is seen as the key to rehabilitation. Heroin addicts, for instance, should not punished for using heroin as long as they don’t lie about it. But if they challenge a positive drug test, they should face a jail sanction. Gilman Halsted, Drug courts give heroin users an alternative to prison, Wisconsin Public Radio, Monday, July 22, 2013, http://www.wpr.org/drug-courts-give-heroin-users-alternative-prison. Finally, many in the legal system confuse forced abstinence with treatment. “Forced abstinence (when it occurs) is not treatment, and it does not cure addiction. Abstinent individuals must still learn how to avoid relapse, including those who may have been abstinent for a long period of time while incarcerated.” Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations – A Research- Based Guide, id.
The defense should remind the court that the label which the court sees fit to attach to a case (“Counsel, this is a burglary case not a drug case!”) does not matter as much to the defense as solving the problem of defendant’s addiction which lead the person to commit crimes. As Dane County Judge John Markson once explained, criminality is fueled by drug addiction. If a court can treat their addiction and remove the root cause of the problem, we’re being smarter about how we deal with criminality. Gilman Halsted, Drug courts give heroin users an alternative to prison, Wisconsin Public Radio, Monday, July 22, 2013, http://www.wpr.org/drug-courts-give-heroin-users-alternative-prison.
Determining the appropriate sentence in this straight forward manner causes one to ask the obvious question: can treatment for heroin addiction still benefit society and defendant after s/he committed robberies? The National Institute on Drug Abuse has explained that “drug abuse treatment is effective for offenders who have a history of serious and violent crime, particularly if they receive intensive, targeted services. The economic benefits in avoided crime costs and those of crime victims (e.g., medical costs, lost earnings, and loss in quality of life) may be substantial for these high-risk offenders. Treating them requires a high degree of coordination between drug abuse treatment providers and criminal justice personnel to ensure that the prisoners receive needed treatment and other services that will help prevent criminal recidivism.” Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations – A Research-Based Guide, (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services revised April 2014) p.18. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-abuse-treatment-criminal-justice-populations-research-based-guide/are-all-drug-abusers-in-criminal-justice-system-good. Emphasis added.
If the sentencing court believes prison is necessary, the court needs to understand Wisconsin’s prison population. In September 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections reported that 21,713 people were in Wisconsin state prisons; that is, the Wisconsin Prison System is operating at 129% or 4,600 more than the facilities’ permitted capacity. Healthier Lives, Stronger Families, Safer Communities: how increasing funding for alternatives to prison will save lives and money in Wisconsin (Human Impact Partners and WISDOM November 2012) p. 6, http://prayforjusticeinwi.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/11x15_Health_Impact_Assessment_Full_Report.pdf; Christina D. Carmichael, Adult Corrections Program (Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau Jan. 2013) p.4. Additional inmates were housed by: (a) exceeding the defined number of double occupancy cells; (b) housing more than two inmates in some cells; and (c) utilizing some non-housing space for housing purposes. Adult Corrections Program, id. Out of this general prison population, 12.6% are males in prison for robbery. Id., at 40. The cost of this prison population to a Wisconsin taxpayer was staggering. In 2011-12, daily per capita cost at all correctional facilities was approximately $33,400 annually. Adult Corrections Program, p.3.
For inmates with drug addiction issues, Wisconsin operates two facilities. One is The Drug Abuse Correctional Center which is located north of Oshkosh in Winnebago, Wisconsin. The current population capacity is 300 male inmates with 220 beds designated for treatment. The Drug Abuse Correctional Center, http://doc.wi.gov/families-visitors/find-facility/drug-abuse-correctional-center. The second is Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility which reserves 300 beds for treatment and of the 300 treatment beds, 10 provide an ATR resource. http://doc.wi.gov/families-visitors/find-facility/chippewa-valley-correctional-treatment-facility
So Wisconsin has set aside approximately 600 beds in a prison system of 21,713 inmates. While the Wisconsin Department of Corrections offers a variety of health, substance abuse treatment, and life skills programs to incarcerated offenders in other facilities, merely offering programs does not guarantee that prisoners can get in. Healthier Lives, Stronger Families, Safer Communities: how increasing funding for alternatives to prison will save lives and money in Wisconsin, p.7. Former Wisconsin prisoners mentioned long waiting lists and restrictive criteria that kept them out of the programs they wanted to enroll in. Said one former prisoner: “The waiting list is so long – hundreds and hundreds of people – so many people don’t get in.” Id. In fact, “[u]p to 85% of prisoners who could benefit from substance abuse treatment in prisons do not receive it.” Id. at 10. The defense would suggest that untreated or inadequately treated inmates are more likely to resume using drugs when released from prison, and commit crimes at a higher rate than non-abusers.
See also http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/effective-sentencing-drug-addicts-committing-crimes-paul-ksicinski and https://www.facebook.com/paulksicinskilaw