Home Career Rehabilitation: A Shift in How the Criminal Justice System Addresses Drug Offenders

Rehabilitation: A Shift in How the Criminal Justice System Addresses Drug Offenders


By Dr. Vincent Giordano, Program Director, Criminal Justice at American Public University

Since the late 1900s, there has been a shift in how the criminal justice system deals with drug offenders by creating alternatives to lengthy prison sentences. Prior to the shift, the war on drugs resulted in large numbers of individuals being incarcerated for a multitude of offenses ranging from drug possession to drug trafficking.

The Establishment of Drug Court
courtIn response to this problem, the first drug courts were created. Drugs courts allow for court supervision of a drug offender as well as the ability for an individual to receive treatment. This process allows for a certain amount of accountability for the offender while addressing the central problem: the individual’s drug abuse/dependency.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), 100,000 drug offenders have entered drug court programs since their creation. NCJRS states that drug courts are more effective at reducing recidivism and are more cost-effective than traditional methods of incarceration. This shows that rehabilitative efforts, which are lower-cost to taxpayers, are more effective than locking up offenders.

California and New York have repealed their tough sentencing guidelines instituted in the 1970s and 1980s in favor of other options like drug treatment. According to Bergman (2013), New York repealed its harsh drug-sentencing laws, known as the “Rockefeller drug laws” in 2009. Instead, the state instituted drug treatment programs. According to Bergman, the courts in New York State sent nearly 1,400 more drug-addicted offenders to treatment and saved taxpayers $5,144 per offender. Furthermore, the state’s jail population dropped 40 percent in 2009.

Careers in Rehabilitation and Reintegration
The Criminal Justice Department at American Public University offers a master’s level concentration in rehabilitation and reintegration. This concentration includes courses that prepare the student to work in a variety of roles in the rehabilitative aspect of the justice system. The concentration is designed to prepare students to understand the methods commonly used in rehabilitation and the theories and practices presently being implemented. Courses focus on mental health, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, deviance, and gangs.

The goal is to prepare students to work in rehabilitative services. These jobs include:

  • Probation officer
  • Drug treatment counselor
  • Social worker
  • Prevention specialist
  • And more

In this ever-changing world of criminal justice, it is important that today’s student understands the key changes in the field. The concentration in rehabilitation and reintegration prepares students for the newest shift in corrections management.  

About the Author: Dr. Vinnie Giordano, Ph.D. obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Long Island University/C.W. Post in Liberal Arts with a specialization in political science, his Masters of Science degree from Florida Metropolitan University in Criminal Justice, and another Masters of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Giordano also obtained his Ph.D. in Human Services with a specialization in Criminal Justice from Capella University. Before coming to APUS as a full-time employee Dr. Giordano had worked in the field of substance abuse/ behavioral health for 13 years where he worked as a substance abuse counselor in a Department of Corrections-funded youthful offender program, a counselor and supervisor for a 28-day residential and aftercare program, and as the Administrator of Juvenile Services at the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center. Currently, Dr. Giordano serves as the Program Director of the Criminal Justice Department which is under the School of Public Service and Health. 


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