Alternatives to punishment for drug-using offenders
Based on the options provided by the international drug control legal framework, this paper considers the rehabilitative measures of treating, educating or reintegrating drug users as alternatives or additions to conviction or punishment that are established in the laws of many countries in Europe today. Distinguishing them from ‘alternatives to prison’, it outlines the variety of rehabilitative measures in use and sets out the main issues in their design, implementation and evaluation. The paper finds that alternatives to punishment are available across Europe to varying degrees and with... inconclusive evaluations suggesting positive results. The success of these measures depends partly on the degree to which they are accurately targeted to specific objectives and specific users. The policy arguments in favour of them seem to have developed along two lines: reducing harms to the individual and society by problem drug users, and addressing structural burdens on the justice system by non-problem users. Yet the paper finds that this distinction, or prioritisation, is not always clear in the design or implementation of the different measures, which can in turn affect the few evaluations carried out. Compromises between the two different aims of the laws (to treat or to punish these offenders) can also have unintended effects on the outcomes. Clarity on these issues should assist development and implementation of more successful measures in the future.