Municipalities and states are building new jails or expanding existing jails at an increasing rate. The new norm is to incarcerate nearly everyone charged with any kind of criminal activity, especially women, minorities, and those who have to depend on court-appointed attorneys for their legal help. Many of those attorneys are overworked with too many clients to prepare cases for, while others just use the position to gain experience to apply for a position in a law firm. This means more often than not, that clients do not get good legal help. Incarceration should always be the last resort.

For some offenders, jail time should be a last resort

Many people charged with low-level drug crimes are often arrested with just enough for personal use and the paraphernalia that goes along with it.

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Although a few are placed into inpatient or outpatient drug rehabilitation centers, the largest number of offenders are sent to jail where there is no drug counseling and no therapy to treat the underlying causes of addiction. Most offenders don't simply up and decide to start doing drugs for the fun of it.

Domestic abuse of children and spouses is another example of the #failure of the justice system to address the root of the problem. Whether the behavior was learned from growing up in an abusive household, from a lack of anger control, or no clear understanding of proper punishment, no man or woman ever intended to become abusive. Incarceration will not make the problem go away.

Most people with a physical limitation or psychological diagnosis need therapy

Some of those charged with domestic abuse or other crimes have been burdened by issues carried over from years of physical and emotional abuse while they were growing up.

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They never learned how to cope with the stressors or pressures and many adults who were exposed to long-term abuse blamed themselves for the unhealthy family dynamics. Left with a feeling of failure that they couldn't make their parents change or help a younger sibling, the burden of guilt becomes too heavy to bear. They may become emotional drinkers when the stress can no longer be managed or show anger towards those who have nothing to do with the problem.

For those who cannot find the strength to remove themselves completely from the family members as adults, the stress continues to build until something tragic happens. It is the failure of the U.S. justice system to get help for offenders that increases the generational cycle of abuse and addiction.

Some municipalities and states have lowered the rate of recidivism and incarceration

Many judges and attorneys don't have an inclination to bring social services into the mix, so offenders simply go to jail to sit in a cell, sometimes for several years.

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But that's not the case in the Orange County, CA Community Court, a national leader in restorative justice practices. A sizable number of offenders avoid prison time and earn a second chance if they agree to commit to an intensive rehabilitation program. This could be intensive inpatient or outpatient therapy, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, co-dependency groups, or even domestic abuse or anger management counseling.

The primary goal of this and other similar courts is to achieve tangible outcomes for offenders as well as the victims and for the community as a whole. In some states and countries exchanging jail time for help for the offenders has resulted in a reduction in foster care cases and increased sobriety. Arie Freiberg, a professor at the University of Monash in Australia summed it up when he wrote that problem-solving courts seek to re-engineer how government systems respond to problems like addiction, mental Illness, and child neglect in order to create healthier communities.

#jail time should be the last resort #help before incarceration