When treatment means punishment
Throughout history and to this day, treatment itself has often meant punishment. Without a careful interrogation of what we mean by “treatment” and the history of coercion, criminal justice reforms will be reforms in name only.
Drug courts, which coerce people into treatment under threat of criminal punishment, continue to expand nationally. But three decades of evidence clearly shows that most drug courts do not reduce imprisonment, do not save money, do not improve public safety and ultimately fail to help people struggling with drug problems. Involuntary detention is incarceration, whether we call it a hospital or a jail. Community supervision is community supervision, whether we call it probation or involuntary outpatient commitment. Indeed, purportedly health-oriented interventions framed as “for their own good” can in some ways be even more pernicious than criminal justice interventions.