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Lock-up alternative strategies spotlighted in St. Louis County

Just make an informed judgment after doing the math, say St. Louis County advocates of alternative-to-incarceration strategies for select low-level criminal offenders.

The numbers virtually speak for themselves. Reportedly, it costs taxpayers about $25,000 a year to pay the jail-linked costs for a county inmate with an opioid or related substance abuse problem. Conversely, that individual can be treated on an out-patient basis in a rehabilitation setting for a scant $3,500.

The first described outcome does nothing in most cases to address the underlying addiction issues that spur criminal activity. The second directly zeroes in on the problem via therapy, medication and other tools.

As for the comparative costs, it is hardly surprising that out-patient programs are receiving heightened emphasis from county law enforcers and justice officials.

One principal advocate of a jail diversion program for eligible offenders (typically nonviolent individuals with clear addiction issues) states that increased participation clears out jail cells to a material degree. Moreover, he adds, it could yield millions in savings for the county.

“We can’t incarcerate our way out of substance abuse,” says St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell. He and other reform proponents stress that a selectively applied jail-alternative approach unquestionably leads to lower costs and a reduced recidivism rate. Importantly, too, it improves mental health promoting long-term stability for offenders.

The cited upsides of an incarceration option for many defendants spell nothing new for seasoned criminal defense attorneys. It is no secret that widespread benefits accrue when sensible and humane sentencing outcomes stress treatment rather than punishment for individuals suffering from addiction and mental health problems.

Persons with questions or concerns regarding any Missouri criminal charge can contact an experienced St. Louis legal defense team for guidance and proven representation.

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Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

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