Addiction, mental health, and crime are, unfortunately, often connected. Underlying a staggering amount of criminal behavior — and noncriminal behavior that is nonetheless charged as such — are pervasive and untreated or undertreated issues with mental health and addiction. In 2018, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections, nearly 3 out of every 4 prisoners reported some history of substance abuse, with a shocking 61.3% reporting dependence or addiction to drugs or alcohol. In that same report only 26.5% of Oregon prisoners mental health needs were categorized as “no reported need” — in other words, a large majority of prisoners need or have requested some sort of mental health treatment.
Our collective failure to address the needs of these particularly vulnerable segments of our society in a more productive and just manner is a damning reflection on our priorities. However, as we search for ways to make our communities safer, this realization also provides an opportunity: take aim at our lack of mental health and addiction resources, and crime will fall.
People living with mental health and addiction issues that manifest in criminal or other antisocial conduct ought to be provided the opportunity to heal and grow. Incarceration does the opposite. When released, the collateral consequences of a criminal record easily creates a cycle of challenges and recidivism that causes unnecessary suffering and makes society less safe.
Oregon courts have made honest efforts to confront the problem. Many counties have specific mental health courts that facilitate healing instead of punishment. There are also many “treatment first” courts throughout the state that provide a willing defendant a chance to address addiction issues.
An effective criminal defense attorney should discuss mental health and addiction with clients without judgment where appropriate, eschew the stigma surrounding both, and seek to illuminate paths to recovery that benefit clients both personally and legally.
Ross Denison Law strives to work with clients whose criminal charges are related to mental health issues or drug / alcohol addiction. As a former mental health counselor, Portland criminal defense attorney Ross Denison understands that treatment can be your best option to move forward with your life. He urges judges and prosecutors, whenever possible, to help you reach the most positive outcome available in your criminal case.
If you have been charged with a crime and want to request a consultation with Ross, contact Ross Denison Law.