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Purpose – This study tracks the legal control of the problem of substance abuse.Methodology/Approach – The chapter explores the “natural history” of the evolution of the…
Purpose – This study tracks the legal control of the problem of substance abuse.
Methodology/Approach – The chapter explores the “natural history” of the evolution of the social construction of drug use and our collective response to it. Over the past 100 years, our understanding of drug use/abuse and the system for handling drug problems have gone through a series of changes. In the past 20 years or so, provision of treatment for drug offenders within the criminal justice system has rapidly expanded. California's recently enacted Proposition 36 (Prop 36) initiates for the first time on a mass basis the court-supervised drug treatment that began a decade earlier on a much smaller scale with the original drug courts. This chapter compares the Prop 36 program for diverting nonviolent drug offenders into court-supervised treatment with the original drug courts.
Findings – The research shows how court-supervised drug treatment has evolved from a personalized care program in the original drug courts to a mass processing operation under Prop 36. The research finds that the social problem solution of offering treatment to more drug defendants created its own unanticipated consequences and problems, including significant standardization in the operations of the court and a dilution of many useful features that defined the early drug courts.
Practical implications – “Farming out” drug defendants to probation and treatment makes case-processing and treatment potentially less effective therapeutically. The chapter raises questions about how social control can extend its domain without “breaking the bank” and what the consequences are for how social problems are handled.
The theoretical model draws on the pioneering work of Spector and Kitsuse (1973, 1977) describing the stages that a social problem goes through. These stages are…
The theoretical model draws on the pioneering work of Spector and Kitsuse (1973, 1977) describing the stages that a social problem goes through. These stages are conceptualized as cyclical in nature, with stages repeated (in modified form) across multiple cycles. Although the model provides for multiple cycles, only the first two cycles were explicitly formulated in the original paper. However, consideration of the developments described in this collection requires that we consider additional cycles, and doing so allows us to expand the model beyond its original formulation.
The societal institutions for dealing with social problems are in a constant state of change. New problems are “discovered,” old problems are redefined, and new remedies are implemented (Peyrot, 1984). Each of these changes is worthy of attention in its own right, as are the larger trends within which these individual changes occur. Many of the contributions in this volume of Research in Social Problems and Public Policy address social problem solutions that are collaborative, interdisciplinary, and interinstitutional in nature. These contributions reflect a larger societal trend toward the medicalization of social control, especially the increasing role of mental health practitioners within the criminal justice system. Some contributions reflect an increasing social control function in institutions outside the criminal justice system, for example, the schools. In the latter situations, social control efforts can become routine features of institutional practice. Although such social control efforts may not increase the role of criminal justice agents per se in schools, they often employ school personnel in law enforcement and judicial capacities (e.g., campus police who enforce laws and campus regulations [especially related to students’ use of alcohol and drugs] and judicial administrators who adjudicate student (mis)behavior and mete out “appropriate” punishments [e.g., mandatory participation in campus alcohol intervention programs]).