Alcoholics: Incarcerate or Rehabilitate?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on June 14th, 2013

Albert Einstein once famously said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again…and expecting different results".

Contrary to the deceptive statistics publicized by MADD (see "A Closer Look at DUI Fatality Statistics"), the number of deaths caused by drunk driving has not decreased significantly with the imposition of increasingly harsh penalties. And so new laws are passed further lowering legal limits and raising penalties…and the next year even more Draconian laws….ad infinitum.

The simple fact is that most DUI-caused deaths are caused by a relatively small group of "problem drinkers". These individuals are typically characterized by recidivism (repeat offenses), unusually high blood-alcohol levels — and alcoholism. And alcoholics are simply not deterred by criminal sanctions, any more than drug addicts are. By now, most experts recognize that alcoholism is a disease, not a choice. And you don't treat a disease with incarceration. If you throw an alcoholic in jail for six months, on the day he walks out he will likely go to the first bar he finds and resume drinking. What has been accomplished? 

We recognize incapacity due to disease for such crimes as murder: the plea/verdict is "not guilty by reason of insanity". The defendant is not simply set free, but is hospitalized for treatment of the disease. Why not treatment for drunk drivers who suffer from the disease of alcoholism?

Would you prefer to have a chronic drunk driver off the roads for a few months — or treated for his addiction?
 

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