Addiction’s Prisoners

When a loved one struggling with addiction is facing incarceration for a crime, jail might not be the only option. Alternative sentencing programs work to help people recover from their addictions as an alternative to serving time in jail.

We understand that there are a lot of emotions that surround this topic. Many times, you might feel a sense of relief that your loved one is no longer living on the streets.

Jail becomes almost like a safe haven and slightly eases your mind. You know that they are at least getting a roof over their head and food to eat, but unfortunately, there is still a chance that they might get ahold of drugs.

But jail definitely has its moments of worry as well. You can never quite trust who they will meet or that they will change their ways and actually want to stay clean.

With alternative sentencing, your loved one can be in a safe place that actually does encourage them to stay clean and engage in productive learning and treatment. The rehab center is a much better consolation than the jail cell.

This program is for people who have not already been sentenced, but if your loved one is already incarcerated, know that they may be able to gain access to insurance upon completion of their time served and can enter treatment then. We’ll go over more details below.

Alternative Sentence

Alternative sentencing gives people a better chance of changing their ways and staying clean. There seemed to be a strong link between people with addictions and repeat offenders. The judicial system felt they could lessen the number of repeat offenders by offering alternatives where they got focused treatment and rehab.

Instead of incarceration, people struggling with addiction can complete mandatory treatment and get a new chance at getting their lives back.

In some instances, the case will be deferred while the individual who committed the crime is in treatment and upon successful completion, the case can be dismissed. Others offer the treatment as an alternative, but they still could face probation or a short time serving out their sentence in jail.

The program does come with strict rules that the individual must follow in order to successfully complete it. Otherwise, there is a good chance they will be sent to complete their prison sentence.

Usually, if they are found with the possession of drugs while in rehab, or if they are kicked out of the rehab center, their alternative sentence will be revoked so they will truly have to be committed to getting clean and staying clean.

Program length varies, but typically alternative sentences are seen to last from 12 months to 24 months depending on the crime. Most require the person struggling with the addiction to plead guilty to their crime before entering the program.

The exact details differ depending on which state your loved one is being sentenced in, so be sure to inquire with your local department.

Transitions Recovery’s Connection.

Not many people are familiar with alternative sentencing when their loved one finds themselves in this situation. Transitions Recovery truly believes in the power of addiction treatment instead of time behind bars so we work closely with lawyers to get more alternative sentences.

Our outreach coordinator, John Whyte, specialized in alternative sentencing and is constantly connecting with lawyers in the area. Often times, judges will be reluctant to grant alternative sentences because so many people have just try to use it to get out of jail with no intention of getting clean.

Transitions Recovery has built up such a good reputation with the judges that when John requests court ordered rehab, it is usually granted. Reputation of a center really can have a huge impact on whether or not alternative sentences will be granted.

Not a lot of treatment centers dedicate time to this area, but our staff here at Transitions knows it’s so important. If you have any questions about this program, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 800-626-1980.

Can’t Get an Alternative Sentence?

While alternative sentencing programs are growing, they still don’t reach everyone who needs them. If your loved one can’t get an alternative sentence, but is serious about getting clean, they could have other options once their time is served.

After Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, it has become easier for people who have been incarcerated to gain access to insurance. Normally, they would only be able to obtain insurance after a qualifying event like losing insurance, getting married, or moving out of state. Now, leaving jail or prison has become a qualifying event too.

Each person who is released from jail or prison has 60 days to sign up for private health insurance. Once the 60 days has passed and they didn’t sign up, they won’t be eligible until the next open enrollment period (which only happens once a year). More details can be found on the website.


If private insurance isn’t an option, the loved one might want to look into Medicaid. They are able to enroll in Medicaid while they are incarcerated, so long as it is in the open enrollment period.

Doing this does not enable Medicaid to cover medical costs while in prison, but it can help speed up access to care once they get out.

One thing to be aware of is how readily available care is for Medicaid holders. A lot of state-run treatment centers will take Medicaid, but the quality of care at these facilities is usually not as good and there can be pretty long wait lists to get in.

If seeking treatment is the number one priority, they should consider enrolling in private insurance because higher quality centers will be more likely to accept their insurance. If you are having trouble finding a quality center, we go over what to look for here.

Overall, the cost of insurance or even paying cash for quality treatment centers far outweighs risking relapse and facing more jail time or even death.

How can we help?

Knowing your options if your loved one is ever in this kind of situation is the first step to getting positive results. Be sure to talk to their lawyer about alternative sentencing options and see if it might be a possibility.

If the judge will not allow alternatives or deferment, then you will likely need to go over treatment options after the sentence is served. Insurance can make a big difference when it comes to repeat offenses and sobriety.

If you need assistance in understanding the whole application process, we would be happy to assist you and your loved one. While we can’t apply for you, we can walk you through the steps and get the person struggling with addiction well on their way to getting into a trustworthy center. Go ahead and give us a call at 800-626-1980 or, feel free to contact us directly.