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Judging Addicts

Judging Addicts: Drug Courts and Coercion in the Justice System

Rebecca Tiger
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Judging Addicts
    Book Description:

    The number of people incarcerated in the U.S. now exceeds 2.3 million, due in part to the increasing criminalization of drug use: over 25% of people incarcerated in jails and prisons are there for drug offenses. Judging Addicts examines this increased criminalization of drugs and the medicalization of addiction in the U.S. by focusing on drug courts, where defendants are sent to drug treatment instead of prison. Rebecca Tiger explores how advocates of these courts make their case for what they call enlightened coercion, detailing how they use medical theories of addiction to justify increased criminal justice oversight of defendants who, through this process, are defined as both sick and bad. Tiger shows how these courts fuse punitive and therapeutic approaches to drug use in the name of a progressive and enlightened approach to addiction. She critiques the medicalization of drug users, showing how the disease designation can complement, rather than contradict, punitive approaches, demonstrating that these courts are neither unprecedented nor unique, and that they contain great potential to expand punitive control over drug users. Tiger argues that the medicalization of addiction has done little to stem the punishment of drug users because of a key conceptual overlap in the medical and punitive approaches - that habitual drug use is a problem that needs to be fixed through sobriety. Judging Addicts presses policymakers to implement humane responses to persistent substance use that remove its control entirely from the criminal justice system and ultimately explores the nature of crime and punishment in the U.S. today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5941-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, while riding the NYC subway, I picked upThe New York Timessitting on the seat next to me and was immediately struck by the article “A Drug Court Takes a Risk to Aid Addicts.”¹ It spoke about the emergence of drug courts as a strategy for dealing with nonviolent drug offenders, and referred to the “human resilience” these courts tapped into and their “redemptive possibilities.” Brooklyn’s district attorney described them as a “symbol of an enlightened answer to the drug plague.” Addicts were given the choice of prison or drug treatment; if they chose the latter,...

  5. 1 Both Bad and Sick
    (pp. 15-40)

    AN AFRICAN AMERICAN woman in her mid-thirties is escorted into the courtroom, her hands shackled behind her back. She faces the judge. It’s already been decided, before she gets there, that she will plead guilty to assault charges. Her sentence will be eighteen months in a lockdown, inpatient drug treatment facility. Her attorney provides the judge with some details of her life. She’s been homeless since she was eleven. She’s been arrested several times, for prostitution and theft. She’s been an addict for over twenty years. The judge repeats the offer of drug treatment, interspersing her legal, formal language with...

  6. 2 Criminalizing Deviance: Reconciling the Punitive and Rehabilitative
    (pp. 41-57)

    THE REEMERGENCE OF rehabilitative sanctions within the criminal justice system is part of a broader process of transformation in punishment ideologies and practices. Punishment in the United States has been motivated by two main perspectives about the causes of crime. The first, often called the “classical perspective,” is that crime is motivated by free will. According to this perspective, punishment should serve as a deterrent. The second view is that crime is caused by an underlying factor, such as the environment or psychological makeup of the rulebreaker. While these two perspectives seem conceptually different, throughout the history of punishment they...

  7. 3 “The Right Thing to Do for the Right Reasons”: The Institutional Context for the Emergence of Drug Courts
    (pp. 58-72)

    DRUG COURTS EMERGED in a context of diminished judicial discretion in sentencing and harnessed widely accepted medicalized theories of addiction. This diminished discretion reflected the discrediting of the rehabilitative ideal in punishment and a turn toward theories of criminality that emphasized free will over deterministic causes. Reflecting the cycle that has taken place in punishment between these two general perspectives, drug courts emerge as an attempt to shift back from the rigidity of sentencing guidelines to the flexibility of judicial discretion. They do this by appealing to theories of addiction that originate outside the criminal justice system, but which they...

  8. 4 “Enlightened Coercion”: Making Coercion Work
    (pp. 73-87)

    THE REEMERGENCE OF drug courts is largely influenced by trends that have taken place outside the realm of punishment, which affect the specific knowledge that advocates draw on to argue for the importance of enlightened coercion. Two interrelated trends have paved the way for the reemergence of rehabilitative sanctions generally, and have shaped the specific ways that knowledge about addiction has been used to reorient the courts toward a “healing” function. First, the rise of medicalized processes generally, and second, the proliferation of scientific theories about the origins of addiction, have provided the dominant ways of understanding human behavior and...

  9. 5 “Force Is the Best Medicine”: Addiction, Recovery, and Coercion
    (pp. 88-114)

    Drug court advocates attempt to reframe the focus of the court toward the healing function they so clearly believe is in the court’s power to achieve by drawing on theories outside the criminal justice system about the nature of addiction and its effective treatment. They use these theories to argue for the benefits of coerced treatment over imprisonment of drug users and voluntary treatment. In doing so, they make their case that the courts are the ideal site within which to enact the change necessary to transform addicts’ lives.

    Drug court advocates conceive of addiction in both medical and moral...

  10. 6 “Now That We Know the Medicine Works”: Expanding the Drug Court Model
    (pp. 115-132)

    DRUG COURTS ARE interested in intervening at the level of the individual and, as demonstrated in the previous chapter, take considerable care to craft a therapeutic function for themselves, drawing on medicalized theories of addiction bolstered by psychological theories of behavior change. While advocates are interested in rehabilitating individuals, they are also interested in rehabilitating the court system. As discussed in chapter 3, institutional problems at the level of court functioning, defined by advocates as inefficiency and ineffectiveness, led to the formation of the first drug courts and continue to motivate proponents of these courts to argue for their expansion....

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 133-150)

    ON JANUARY 5, 2010, the Internet buzzed with the story of Redmond O’Neal’s drug relapse. O’Neal, famous for being the son of actors Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett, was arrested in February 2008 for driving under the influence and felony drug possession and was eventually sentenced to drug court after pleading guilty to his offenses. When he returned from a twenty-four-hour pass to his residential drug treatment program where he was serving his sentence, O’Neal admitted to and tested positively for drug use. He was sent back to court, where his judge admonished him: “You haven’t got a clue as...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 151-156)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 157-172)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-182)
  15. Index
    (pp. 183-197)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 198-198)