Drugs And Crime

The link between drug use and crime is not a new one. For more than twenty
years, both the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of

Justice have funded many studies to try to better understand the connection. One
such study was done in Baltimore on heroin users. This study found high rates of
criminality among users during periods of active drug use, and much lower rates
during periods of nonuse (Ball et al. 1983, pp.119-142). A large number of
people who abuse drugs come into contact with the criminal justice system when
they are sent to jail or to other correctional facilities. The criminal justice
system is flooded with substance abusers. The need for expanding drug abuse
treatment for this group of people was recognized in the Crime Act of 1994,
which for the first time provided substantial resources for federal and state
jurisdictions. In this paper, I will argue that using therapeutic communities in
prisons will reduce the recidivism rates among people who have been released
from prison. I am going to use the general theory of crime, which is based on
self-control, to help rationalize using federal tax dollars to fund these
therapeutic communities in prisons. I feel that if we teach these prisoners some
self-control and alternative lifestyles that we can keep them from reentering
the prisons once they get out. I am also going to describe some of todayís
programs that have proven to be very effective. Gottfredson and Hirschi
developed the general theory of crime. It According to their theory, the
criminal act and the criminal offender are separate concepts. The criminal act
is perceived as opportunity; illegal activities that people engage in when they
perceive them to be advantageous. Crimes are committed when they promise rewards
with minimum threat of pain or punishment. Crimes that provide easy, short-term
gratification are often committed. The number of offenders may remain the same,
while crime rates fluctuate due to the amount of opportunity (Siegel 1998).

Criminal offenders are people that are predisposed to committing crimes. This
does not mean that they have no choice in the matter, it only means that their
self-control level is lower than average. When a person has limited
self-control, they tend to be more impulsive and shortsighted. This ties back in
with crimes that are committed that provide easy, short-term gratification.

These people do not necessarily have a tendency to commit crimes, they just do
not look at long-term consequences and they tend to be reckless and
self-centered (Longshore 1998, pp.102-113). These people with lower levels of
self-control also engage in non-criminal acts as well. These acts include
drinking, gambling, smoking, and illicit sexual activity (Siegel 1998). Also,
drug use is a common act that is performed by these people. They do not look at
the consequences of the drugs, while they get the short-term gratification.

Sometimes this drug abuse becomes an addiction and then the person will commit
other small crimes to get the drugs or them money to get the drugs. In a
mid-western study done by Evans et al. (1997, pp. 475-504), there was a
significant relationship between self-control and use of illegal drugs. The
problem is once these people get into the criminal justice system, it is hard to
get them out. After they do their time and are released, it is much easier to be
sent back to prison. Once they are out, they revert back to their impulsive
selves and continue with the only type of life they know. They know short-term
gratification, the "quick fix" if you will. Being locked up with
thousands of other people in the same situation as them is not going to change
them at all. They break parole and are sent back to prison. Since the second
half of the 1980ís, there has been a large growth in prison and jail
populations, continuing a trend that started in the 1970ís. The proportion of
drug users in the incarcerated population also grew at the same time. By the end
of the 1980ís, about one-third of those sent to state prisons had been
convicted of a drug offense; the highest in the countryís history (Reuter

1992, pp. 323-395). With the arrival of crack use in the 1980ís, the strong
relationship between drugs and crime got stronger. The use of cocaine and heroin
became very prevalent. Violence on the streets that is caused by drugs got the
publicís attention and that put pressure on the police and courts.

Consequently, more arrests were made. While it may seem good at first that these
people are locked up, with a second