Judging Addicts: Drug Courts and Coercion in the Justice System (Alternative Criminology)

Judging Addicts: Drug Courts and Coercion in the Justice System (Alternative Criminology)

Rebecca Tiger

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 0814784070

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The number of people incarcerated in the U.S. now exceeds 2.3 million, due in part to the increasing criminalization of drug use: over 25% of people incarcerated in jails and prisons are there for drug offenses. Judging Addicts examines this increased criminalization of drugs and the medicalization of addiction in the U.S. by focusing on drug courts, where defendants are sent to drug treatment instead of prison. Rebecca Tiger explores how advocates of these courts make their case for what they call “enlightened coercion,” detailing how they use medical theories of addiction to justify increased criminal justice oversight of defendants who, through this process, are defined as both “sick” and “bad.”
Tiger shows how these courts fuse punitive and therapeutic approaches to drug use in the name of a “progressive” and “enlightened” approach to addiction. She critiques the medicalization of drug users, showing how the disease designation can complement, rather than contradict, punitive approaches, demonstrating that these courts are neither unprecedented nor unique, and that they contain great potential to expand punitive control over drug users. Tiger argues that the medicalization of addiction has done little to stem the punishment of drug users because of a key conceptual overlap in the medical and punitive approaches—that habitual drug use is a problem that needs to be fixed through sobriety. Judging Addicts presses policymakers to implement humane responses to persistent substance use that remove its control entirely from the criminal justice system and ultimately explores the nature of crime and punishment in the U.S. today.

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viewed as not only feckless but also dangerous and authoritarian.27 “Truth in sentencing” statutes, which held that “equal sentences imposed in open court had to mean the same thing for different offenders,” were adopted by several states.28 Judges disagreed, however, over what sentence any particular type of case deserved. It became clear, to the vocal opponents of discretion, that a mechanism was needed to standardize sentences. This mechanism became sentencing guidelines that attempted to

new generation. So, it’s not a rehabilitation that’s a get out of jail card or that’s, we’re sorry because there’s root causes of crime and we’re going to explain away your behavior or absolve you of your individual responsibility. It’s an approach that combines punishment and health and contains elements of a classic punitive model but also a classic rehabilitative model. This political appeal—drug courts are both tough on defendants while acknowledging they have a disease and need

lives.”19 The personalized nature of the interaction between the “Force Is the Best Medicine” 99 judge and the defendant is uniformly extolled by drug courts advocates as the key to these courts’ success. Tying into the idea that addicts are like children, the judge assumes a parental role in the defendant’s life. As one advocate explained: The key piece of the drug court is the regular and frequent interaction between the court and the participant. And what happens, every focus group that’s

been made possible by the Law Enforcement and Mental Health Project, an act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2000 meant to address the needs of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system. Mental health courts monitor defendants’ drug use but, unlike drug courts, they are testing for compliance with drug regimens as well as ingestion of illicit substances. As a manual outlining the essential elements of these courts explains, “The court must have up-to-date information on whether

system. It was this same differential treatment, and the individual discretion it entailed, that dismantled Progressive Era reforms. Second, and related to this skimming effect, is the charge that drug courts are racially biased. While African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs, they are often screened out of eligibility for drug courts because of prior convictions, which they are more likely to have because of racial bias.27 Poor defendants often have a hard time

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