Decriminalizing Addiction Series

Decriminalizing Addiction Series

Many people in America are jailed for crimes driven by addiction, but Alamosa, Colorado, is taking a different approach by focusing on treatment, not jail. The following four-part series was reported and written by Ryan Lowery.


Part 1: Program decriminalizes addiction by emphasizing recovery, not jail

They are struggling, often at the lowest point in their lives. Then they’re arrested. Charged with a crime, they face fines, fees and maybe even a lengthy sentence behind bars. They come from varied backgrounds and walks of life. The events that led them into the courtroom are nuanced. Nevertheless, they face a rigid system predicated on the notion that, no matter the reasons behind their actions, those who’ve committed a crime must be punished. One rural Colorado town is rethinking this approach though… READ MORE


Part 2: Arrests decrease under diversion program

Many people with an addiction to drugs or alcohol will end up spending time in jail. The reasons may be because they cannot afford bail, because they are picked up on warrants for missed court dates or because they are arrested for other crimes while awaiting trial. This has led to crowded jails and overloaded court dockets nationwide; however, the southern Colorado town of Alamosa is looking to ease these strains… READ MORE


Part 3: Diversion program thrives on cooperation, embraces skeptics

Addiction is not a crime, yet many battling addiction end up with a criminal record because their addiction pushed them to break the law. In some cases, they might steal items from a store. In other cases, the crime they’ve committed is merely possessing the drug they’re addicted to…. READ MORE


Part 4: Diversion program achieves success by accepting setbacks

Addictions are complex and as unique as the people who struggle with them. The effects of addiction are often persistent and recurring, causing those in treatment to experience setbacks as they work toward recovery. And while some diversion programs require sobriety at the beginning of the program — and can even drop people from the program if they fail just one drug test — the LEAD program doesn’t have those tight constraints… READ MORE