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Should drug addicts be rehabilitated rather than punished for minor offences ?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/24/2015 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 669 times Debate No: 79012
Debate Rounds (2)
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I have spent a lot of time researching this topic over the past few months and can find no evidence to suggest that society or the addict benefit from receiving court appointed punishments for minor drug related offences. Sending someone to court, prison etc. costs the tax payer far more than the cost of most rehabilitation programmes and does not work. Our prisons are overcrowded and do not have the resources to treat problem drug users meaning the reason for their offending is not addressed resulting in higher reoffending rates. I believe that addiction is a disease and should be treated as one.


Hello Lozzer,

I kindly accept your challenge to debate this subject.

Firstly, can I commend you on your choice of topic....excellent, debatable and controversial. I'm glad you're from the UK so I can hopefully offer an acceptable opinion on this.

My argument is that firstly:

Any person brought into Police Custody in the UK for a drug offence, no matter how minor, or of any acquisitive crime, which means to make a gain for themselves, (theft, burglary, fraud etc) is subject to a drug test. If they fail this test, which detect "Class A" substances, namely Cocaine or Heroin, are then referred to see a drugs worker, (whilst in Custody and totally independent of the Police). This drugs worker will act as a councillor and define how severe that person's drug problem is and refer the "addict" to a referral programme to attend and see a drugs worker within the upcoming week. The drug worker will then assess and offer a programme to the subject, free of charge to the user/paid by the tax payer. (Chance 1)

*Point of information

If this is an actual "minor" drug offence, let's say a minimal amount of Cannabis on a first time offender, then this person would not be taken into Custody due to the PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) necessity criteria code, (unless a juvenile) , or even subject to a Custody, Court or even Prison process. It is most likely they will be dealt with on the street. Therefore, not punished.
They would receive a verbal warning, formal warning, fixed penalty ticket/fine or subject to THEIR criminal history, an arrest. The onus/accountability is in the subject's history/criminal past, which I may add is there choice and doing.

***They have the option to waver a fine if they attend a drug awareness meeting, again, depending on THEIR criminal history, if they have previously served a prison term or had lots of previous drug convictions they are not eligible. And if a Juvenile, they are automatically referred to a youth offending team which will in turn do a drug referral*** (Again, another chance to avoid punishment and offered rehabilitation through the appropriate channels).

Now, if the subject was arrested, let's say they had a large quantity of drugs on them and they were arrested for (PWITS) supplying a controlled drug (drug dealing) , they would obviously see a drugs worker and sent for a referral. This means that even if they are released for the crime they are detained for due to insufficient evidence for instance, they are offered support for their drug problem, despite being released from Police matters, they are still offered support. This would be by way of a programme that they would need to attend a few days a week which again is nothing to do with the Police.

Lets say there is sufficient evidence to proceed to a charge:

If the person is arrested due to THEIR criminal history which, offers no alternative than to put them before a Magistrate or (in their choice or depending on the crime being charged) their piers, a Crown Court, they may be put before a Court and convicted of an offence, then they would be sentenced and given conditions of bail or remanded to Her Majesty's Pleasure until sentencing . The common outcome would be to offer them bail, unless they are NFA (No fixed abode), at risk of re-offending or likely to intimidate witnesses and therefore acceptable to remand due to risk.

Bail conditions implied would be, without exception, to adhere to a drug rehabilitation programme in this case. If the subject was to fail to attend to ANY, and I underline, ANY of their appointments, then they would be in breach of their bail conditions and therefore subject to arrest and remand in prison. (Again a chance of rehabilitation).

If the arrested person is that much of a serial offender that they deserve a custodial sentence, they are again offered a drug rehabilitation programme whilst in prison. (Another chance)

My argument to your title are as follows:

1. From experience and daily knowledge of this subject, persons who are "addicts" have numerous opportunities/assistance/help to avoid "punishment.

2. The opportunities given to them to change their way of life are rarely taken and the cycle continues. If they are offered, from early stage, drug rehabilitation courses and even to the point of drug treatment whilst in prison, who needs to change? The system or the person? I believe that the person must accept the problem, if the assistance is there, they must accept it before any progress can be made.

3. Where do you draw the line? In the UK, drugs are illegal, there must be a deterrent to put people off. If there is not punishment, there is no deterrent. Without deterrent, there is acceptance. As a society in the UK, there is no acceptance of hard drugs, therefore it is not welcome.

I put it to you that the UK system tries to assist offenders and rehabilitate "drug addicts", but they fail to take any responsibility for their own actions.

I do not believe that drug addiction is always a choice, however, we as a state can only afford to spend so much time offering assistance to "addicts". You have to agree that the state, the Police, the system, the courts or whoever can only do so much, the user has to act for themselves and take responsibility for their life and their actions.

Punishment is necessary to deter such crime, without that, there would be, in my opinion, an epidemic. If you think of the "on the fence weekend drug users". They may still have the respect for the justice system which stops them from being heavy users or drug addicts. If the law is enough of a deterrent to stop just that very few from going too far and becoming desperate drug addicts then the system has achieved a little goal in saving but a tiny few from a terrible lifestyle.

To put an alternative, more streetwise view on this. At what point do you try and stop people shooting, what is basically brick dust into their veins?

I have attended drugs deaths where family member's said to me that they wished their deceased relative should have sorted themselves out, listened to advice from basically everyone who advised them...but in the end, the decision to take a substance is in the hands of the user, nobody else. I therefore feel that the punishment for drug abusers, after numerous chances to avoid a punishment should be severe.

I welcome and look forward to your opposition on this argument.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for joining the debate and responding in such an informative manner.

I agree with a lot of what you say, in fact we appear to be on the same side in that you too feel rehabilitation is worthwhile. During my research I came across a large number of people who believe it is wrong to waste time and money on treating offending drug addicts. They believe prison is the answer as it keeps them off the streets protecting society from their anti social behaviour. Many still believe addiction IS a choice, a choice made by those with few morals and no willpower.

I am aware of the various opportunities provided by our Criminal Justice System. I have spent a lot of time talking with drug workers who provide the drug rehabilitation orders you mention. I think these are fantastic and provide an excellent alternative to prison but having spent a lot time in court, speaking with the police and the above mentioned drug workers I am not convinced every suitable offender gets these 'opportunities'. I have witnessed first hand people with obvious and well documented addiction facing charges for minor drug related crimes such as shop lifting, theft etc. regularly attend court and not receive the option of any suitable or sufficient rehabilitation. Instead they have been issued with yet another fine they will not pay or a community service order they will fail to attend due to their chaotic lifestyle.

With regard to the rehabilitation in prison I believe the high reoffending rates among problem drug users prove that this does not work. Our prison system is overcrowded and does not have sufficient resources to rehabilitate. In addition a large number of addicts will serve only a short sentence. The UK Drug Commission have found that prison rehabilitation services frequently fall short of even minimum standards and that custodial sentences frequently do more harm than good by creating or exacerbating problems such as housing, employment, family relationships etc.

Having said this I agree with your point that the addict themselves has to want change for change to happen. If the offender has been given a REAL opportunity of help and support and has chosen not to engage there is no choice other than to punish them.

In closing I completely accept that rehabilitation isn't suitable for everyone nor sufficient for all crimes. I do, however, feel that it is a far more successful and economical way of dealing with problem drug addicts who commit minor drug related offences. I would like to see more offenders being given the opportunity of rehabilitation through the effective orders available within the system. I would also like to see the effectiveness and extent of drug treatment and other interventions within our prison systems improved so that the care is equivalent to that found in the community. Drug addiction is not a criminal issue it is a public health issue and must be addressed as such. According to NHS statistics every 1 pound spent on treatment saves society 2.50 in costs caused by drug addiction ! With that in mind it is in Societies interest to invest more money, time and research in to rehabilitation. As problem drug users are more likely to be found in the Criminal Justice System than anywhere else due to the use of drug testing in police stations this is a good place to start.

I look forward to hearing your response :)


Darius2015 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by LOZZER 2 years ago
Hi Darius2015 Yes I am from the UK :)
Posted by Darius2015 2 years ago
Hello Lozzer,

May I ask which country you are from? I would be willing to accept this debate if you are referring to the "UK system", as I have knowledge on this topic. However, I would not know the protocols of America.
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