Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pretrial release: so your client has a drug problem


It happens now and then that our clients struggle with addiction. But you can convert that problem into a reason for pretrial release. First, take your time, obtain an evaluation, and ask your expert to make treatment recommendations. Then access available treatment plans.

Second, pitch the effectiveness of drug treatment. Alternatives to detention “should be recommended” when a defendant “presents a specific risk of pretrial failure that can be addressed by an ATD. For example, a person with a substance abuse problem may be appropriate for drug testing, assessment, or treatment based on their specific situation.” Marie VanNostrand, Pretrial Risk Assessment in the Federal Court, 73 Federal Probation 3, 23 (Sept. 2009).

Drug treatment works. In a landmark publication, the Office of the Surgeon General recently issued a report canvassing addiction in America. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health (Nov. 2016). As the then-Surgeon General explained in his preface to the report, “[w]e . . . need a cultural shift in how we think about addiction. For far too long, too many in our country have viewed addiction as a moral failing. . . . We must help everyone see that addiction is not a character flaw – it is a chronic illness that we must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.” Id. at v.

Even “serious substance use disorders can be treated effectively, with recurrence rates equivalent to those of other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, or hypertension. With comprehensive continuing care, recovery is an achievable outcome.” Id. at 7-5. With treatment, more than “25 million individuals with a previous substance use disorder are estimated to be in remission. Integrated treatment can dramatically improve patient health and quality of life, reduce fatalities, address health disparities, and reduce societal costs that result from unrecognized, unaddressed substance use disorders among patients in the general health care system.” Id.

A carefully prepared pretrial plan might make your client one of these success stories. Use your resources, take your time, and argue the science.

---Kirk Redmond

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