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Drugs & Substance Abuse in Corrections - Policy

Massachusetts' highest court soon takes up a controversial case that raises provocative questions about the criminal justice system and addiction.

The case asks if it's constitutional to require someone on probation to remain drug-free. Some say it could be one of the most important cases before the state Supreme Judicial Court in the past decade.

The case involves 29-year-old Julie Eldred, who was put on probation for a year in 2016 for a larceny charge. Her probation conditions stipulated that she remain drug-free and submit to random drug tests. One of those tests — taken 12 days after Eldred was placed on probation -- came up positive for the opioid fentanyl. Because that was a violation of her probation, she was sent to jail.

"I was in the midst of active addiction, so I was actively using," Eldred said. "But you're forced to go into this saying, 'I'll be drug-free,' or you go to jail."

Eldred says she complied with all other probation conditions — she got into an outpatient addiction treatment program, found a therapist, and started medication-assisted treatment with the drug Suboxone.

This report empirically shows the benefits that can happen if a state reforms its excessively punitive drug control laws. "In 2009, the latest in a series of reforms essentially dismantled New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of a range of felony drug charges and increasing eligibility for diversion to treatment … [The] drug law reform, as it functioned in the city soon after the laws were passed, led to a 35 percent rise in the rate of diversion of eligible defendants to treatment. Although the use of diversion varied significantly among the city’s five boroughs, it was associated with reduced recidivism rates, and cut racial disparities in half." Sections of this report include: introduction; expanding access to treatment; differences in diversion within the city; beyond diversion—broader consequences of drug law reform; narrowing racial differences; improving public safety; the cost of drug law reform; and conclusion and recommendations.

End of An Era? The Impact of Drug Law Reform in New York City Cover

“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) sets the stage for a new health-oriented policy framework to address substance use and mental health disorders. By dramatically expanding and funding healthcare coverage to millions of currently uninsured people, the ACA represents a remarkable opportunity for criminal justice and drug policy reform advocates to advance efforts for policies promoting safe and healthy communities, without excessive reliance on the criminal justice solutions that have become so prevalent under the War on Drugs. This paper is intended as a starting framework for criminal justice and drug policy advocates to navigate the ACA, and to take advantage of the conceptual and practical opportunities it offers for shifting the conversation and the landscape” (p. 2). This report is divided into two parts. Part One--Basics Of The Affordable Care Act For Advocates: Insurance; Medicaid Expansion--Healthcare Insurance for Poor and Low-Income; What is Covered? Essential Health Benefits; and Healthcare Access and Coordinated Care Models Under the ACA. Part Two--Putting the ACA to Work for Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reform: Support Expansion of Medicaid and Other Forms of Healthcare Coverage; Increase Insurance Enrollment of People Currently in the Criminal Justice System; Maintain Active Medicaid Enrollment During Periods of Incarceration; Expand Use of Alternatives to Incarceration; Push for Use of Pre-Booking Diversion Programs (i.e. Front-End Diversion); Promote Changes in the Care Delivery System to Improve Outcomes for People Who Use Drugs; and Advocate for the Decriminalization of Drug Possession and Drug Paraphernalia. Also included is an executive summary.

Healthcare Not Handcuffs: Putting the Affordable Care Act to Work for Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reform Cover

“The Principles report outlines ten operating guidelines that define highly-successful system-level responses to address the needs of drug involved individuals. And the needs are staggering – with estimates as high as 60 percent of arrestees in jail with positive drug tests and fragmented service networks in the highest need communities, the responsibility to treat and rehabilitate drug-involved defendants and offenders has fallen squarely on criminal justice systems. While some systems have had notable successes in meeting these challenges, others continue to struggle. Principles provides a roadmap for leaders and practitioners with guidance like how to identify how severe the substance use is among defendants and offenders, address the diagnosed drivers contributing to the substance abusing behavior, and how to determine the level of intervention based on severity of substance use and on risk to reoffend.” This publication contains sections about: the ten principles of an effective criminal justice response; risk, needs, and evidence-based responses; and moving from aspirational to operational.

Principles of an Effective Cover

The opioid crisis sweeping the country is putting a growing financial and emotional strain on many communities. More than 4,000 people died from unintentional drug overdoses last year in Ohio alone.Many coroners in the state say the death toll will be higher this year.

CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil visited Middletown, Ohio, where the sheriff is refusing to allow deputies to carry the opioid antidote naloxone because of safety concerns.

According to one estimate, opioids could kill nearly half a million people over the next decade. That's like losing the entire population of Atlanta.

Middletown has already seen more overdose calls this year than in all of 2016. CBS News got a first-hand look at the problem overwhelming the city, prompting some to propose extreme solutions.

Dokoupil was along for the ride as first responders in Middletown made their way to a fifth overdose call in just over an hour.

"It seems that, you know, the dealer may have made his rounds," EMS Capt. David Von Bargen said. "And various people are startin' to fall out now."

On this call, he saw a woman turning blue on the ground outside her friend's house. Medics worked quickly and were able to save her -- at least for now.

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