The perception of drug crimes has evolved over the decades. Once thought to be “lost causes,” those arrested for narcotics use were locked up for significant amounts of time. Even people considered non-violent perpetrators served lengthy sentences.
Every problem needs a solution. Identifying addiction as one of the sole primary links to drug crime was an important step. Throwing someone into a prison cell does little to treat the primary illness: dependency on drugs.
Chester County reported 74 drug overdoses in the last eight months, with six resulting in death. Those numbers have continued to climb over the past three years. The county is not alone in the state and the nation as the opioid problem has reached alarming levels. A worldwide pandemic where people are shut into their homes with little if any contact with family only made an already bad situation that much worse.
Resources addicts desperately need
In response to increasing drug use and dependency, a near $600,000 grant from the Department of Justice may help in the continuing battle in the ongoing opioid and drug epidemic. The money will fund a three-year program that screens inmates entering the Chester County Detention Center. Should a connection be found that links crimes committed due to addiction, they will receive resources while they are serving their sentences.
The program is not without precedent. Lancaster County had a similar program resulting in a nearly 80 percent reduction in police encounters with those that participated.
The objective is to offer non-violent offenders an all-important, if not life-saving second chance. Over the course of two years, participants have to get through the entire program while holding steady jobs. Those who succeed will see their records expunged.
After the three years are up, the sheriff’s office can file a re-application, a likely step for all participating counties in a lengthy and ongoing war against drugs.