National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Cynthia Orr said the country needs to rethink the structure of its drug laws and the way the criminal justice system handles drug users. About 500,000 men and women are incarcerated for a drug offense, and they are disproportionately poor, minorities or immigrants, Orr said in a NACDL statement. Those are the people who need medical help for the addiction, but often cannot receive it, she said.
Drug court programs can help users overcome an addiction, but to enter the program the user must plead guilty to the crime. Orr said this is counter intuitive because although the person is sober, he or she now will have a criminal conviction — felony or misdemeanor — haunting them.