Los Angeles - Nonviolent drug offenders will no longer be automatically punished with jail time in California, after final approval of a bill ending mandatory minimum sentences for those crimes. The bill was signed into law on Oct. 5 by Gov. Gavin Newsom and will take effect in January 2022. It gives judges the discretion to sentence nonviolent offenders to probation instead of jail.
Muse Addiction Treatment Center joins those who applaud the new law as a necessary step toward a more compassionate approach to the disease of addiction. When a person is caught possessing illegal drugs but did not obtain them by hurting someone else, they need treatment, not punishment.
In fact, treatment is a solution supported by the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), citing the damage done in the name of fighting drug abuse.
“Our prisons and jails are filled with people — particularly from communities of color — who have committed low-level, nonviolent drug offenses and who would be much better served by non-carceral options like probation, rehabilitation and treatment,” he said in a statement. “It’s an important measure that will help end California’s system of mass incarceration.”
Currently, California’s mandatory drug sentences can range from two to seven or more years, depending on the offense. In addition, judges have no leeway in granting probation or suspending the sentence of anyone convicted of various drug crimes, including possession, sale or transport of drugs and altering prescriptions. This applies if the person has previously been convicted of certain drug felonies.
The new law removes some restrictions on the use of probation for sentencing and, “in the interests of justice,” also allows courts to waive restrictions on other offenses not specified in the new law. Finally, it requires that local programs be established to help the increased numbers of people eligible for treatment rather than jail.
Addicts have been finding such care and compassion for many years at Muse Addiction Treatment Center in Los Angeles. Their treatment options cover the entire journey toward sobriety, from medically supervised detox to residential and outpatient rehab and continuing through post-treatment follow-up support. In evidence-based therapy sessions, clients learn to develop new coping mechanisms for the life struggles that contributed to their addiction. This is intended to improve their chances of continued sobriety after leaving treatment.
Muse does not approach addiction as the addict’s sole disorder but finds it is often a symptom of an underlying mental illness. This co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis, is at work in about half of those who struggle with a substance use disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The accompanying condition may be one of several mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorder or schizophrenia.
People often use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate depression, anxiety or other mental and emotional struggles. Effective treatment may have to go even farther back, to traumatic episodes in the person’s past that lead to the mental health challenge in the first place. Addiction cannot be treated in isolation; if the underlying causes are not resolved, the need for self-medication will continue until the person relapses.
In the same way, jailing an addict only addresses the crime of illegal possession; it does nothing to uncover why the addict sought drugs in the first place. Muse is encouraged to see that lawmakers are beginning to understand the difference between short-term solutions to drug abuse and permanent resolution of the problem.
Anyone in need of help with addiction or mental health, whether for themselves or a loved one, may call Muse Treatment any time at 800-426-1818. Visit www.musetreatment.com to learn more.
SOURCE: Press Advantage [Link]