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What Is an Alternative Sentencing Program?

Alternative sentencing programs are vital to the criminal justice system, which is often overwhelmed with relatively minor, non-violent drug and alcohol-related offenses like DUIs.

In some cases, alternative sentencing allows offenders to stay out of jail. Often, those arrested for their actions caused by using drugs or alcohol will be given a court-ordered rehab sentence instead.

What Is Alternative Sentencing?

Alternative sentencing involves a court-approved opportunity for an individual convicted of a non-violent drug or alcohol-related offense to participate in an alternative to incarceration.

Some of the most popular alternative sentencing programs that may be recommended by a judge include:

  • Work release: A work release program allows an offender to leave jail during business hours to continue his job. The program is also available to unemployed people, in which case arrangements can be made to help them find work.
  • Court-ordered rehab: This allows offenders with drug-related charges to attend a treatment facility instead of being jailed.

Offenders who want to apply for court-ordered rehab instead of serving jail time should fit the following criteria:

  • Be charged with a non-violent crime.
  • Drugs or alcohol had either a direct or indirect involvement in the crime committed.
  • Have no prior criminal record.
  • Often, a guilty plea or admission of guilt may be necessary.
  • Be assessed by a substance abuse counselor or medical professional.
  • Prove that a rehabilitation program would be more beneficial than a prison sentence.
  • Demonstrate your willingness to obtain and maintain sobriety.

Why Many Choose Rehab Instead of Jail Time

Not only do rehab-based sentence reduction programs offer a less disruptive alternative to spending time in jail, but they can help offenders identify and treat the cause of their addiction and possibly the crime itself. Prison alternatives for drug offenders can also ensure that those suffering from addiction will receive the proper medical attention while doing so.

The Dangers of Detoxing in Jail

Most incarceration centers are not well enough equipped to manage withdrawal and detox from drugs or alcohol. Depending on the type and duration of substance abuse, withdrawal may require close medical supervision and medication-assisted treatment. This is not always available in jail, and offenders may be forced to deal with severe physical and psychological symptoms in crowded conditions with limited access to medication, clean bathrooms, and calm surroundings.

How Effective Is Alternative Sentencing?

Alternative sentencing for drug offenders can be highly effective if the offender successfully completes the treatment plan and the therapy, counseling, and educational activities it entails.

The Los Angeles DA’s office found that 70% of those who completed their court-ordered addiction treatment did not re-offend for five years following their discharge.1

If you fail to attend the entirety of the program, you may be subject to facing the full penalty for your crime.

If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, contact Adelante Recovery Center at (949) 427-9099 for help finding the right substance abuse, co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis treatment for you.


  1. https://da.lacounty.gov/operations/alternative-sentencing

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If you or a loved one are in need of help with addiction, contact us today. Our professional and friendly addiction specialists are able to answer your questions and get things moving in the right direction.