Swift and Certain Punishment: Gearing the criminal justice system to change behaviour

‘Policy Exchange is delighted to host Keith Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, for a lecture and discussion about how policymakers can better gear the criminal justice system to change behaviour and substantially cut reoffending.

Professor Humphreys, formerly senior drugs policy advisor to President Obama, is a prominent advocate of a new generation of community supervision systems in the United States that are dramatically cutting substance misuse, crime and imprisonment.

These programmes are based on a simple idea: punishment that is swift and certain but not severe will control the vast bulk of offending behaviour. These programmes, such as South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Scheme, combine much greater offender accountability and monitoring with a system of quick, consistent and modest sanctions.

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‘Stop kicking people out of addiction treatment’ by Bill White

Kicking Image‘In 2005, my colleagues Christy Scott, Michael Dennis, Michael Boyle and I co-authored an article entitled It’s Time to Stop Kicking People out of Addiction Treatment. The latest (2002) data then available confirmed that 18% (288,000) of all persons admitted to specialized addiction treatment in the U.S. were administratively discharged (“kicked out”) prior to treatment completion.

Those persons whose treatment was terminated in this manner were often those with the most severe and complex addictions and the least natural recovery support resources – in short, those most in need of professional treatment.

The most frequent cause for administrative discharge (AD) over the past half century has been continued use of alcohol or other drugs during treatment in spite of threatened consequences, e.g., the central symptom of the disorder.

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