Drug charges in West Virginia can come with various repercussions: costly fines, possible jail time and, not to mention, months of mental and emotional hardship. Many might assume that all drug arrests are justified, but the truth of the matter is that countless individuals face time behind bars all because of a small drug offense. Recent news shows, however, a possible turning of events that could lead to a brighter future for those dealing with the aftereffects of an arrest. 

According to one U.S. News report released last October, West Virginia is turning a positive page when it comes to addressing a high number of drug offenses. Offering low-level drug offenders the option of completing a treatment program instead of jail time, the new regulations have been well received so far. The report even goes as far as to show the program’s celebration of three continuous years of success, as many of those who complete the program are not arrested again. At the time of the article, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (or LEAD) planned to expand to southern parts of the state. 

The American Civil Liberties Union also lauds diversion programs for their success in recent years, arguing that such plans are cheaper and more effective than incarceration. Instead of facing a criminal record for life, offenders are given a second chance by getting to their potential underlying problems with addiction. The ACLU also commends the programs for enhancing safety and reducing recidivism in communities, noting that these individuals are receiving the help they may have sought years ago. The civil rights group uses a 2010 study to show that, if even 10 percent of those eligible for diversion went to diversion programs instead of prison, the country could save up to $4.8 billion. In a nation seriously battling with an opioid epidemic and outstanding incarceration rates, programs such as these offer room for hope for offenders, families and communities.