Pubdate: Sat, 05 Aug 2000
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2000 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Contact:  501 N. Calvert Street P.0. Box 1377 Baltimore, MD 21278
Fax: (410) 315-8912
Author: Kevin Fansler


Hal Riedl advocates building more prisons to ease overcrowding and stop 
releasing violent prisoners to commit more crimes ("More and good prisons 
needed," Opinion Commentary, July 26).

Mr. Riedl is correct about the perils of early release, but violent 
offenders have become a dwindling proportion of those who are entering our 

 From 1980 to 1997, the number per 100,000000 people imprisoned in the U.S. 
for violent offenses doubled, whereas the rate tripled for nonviolent 
offenses. In the same period, the rate for drug offenders increased more 
than 10 times.

Mr. Riedl's argument that increasing the prison population will decrease 
crime rates does not apply to drug offenders.

States with higher rates of drug incarceration usually show higher rates of 
drug use. Furthermore, high rates of drug incarceration in prior years do 
not correlate with lower drug use in subsequent years.

We should explore alternate avenues for nonviolent offenders and drug 
offenders, rather than sending them to these de facto crime schools.

By treating drug use as a health problem instead of one for law 
enforcement, we could even close some prisons, divert more money for other 
needs and, with surplus facilities, we could attempt the rehabilitation of 
the nonviolent offenders.

Kevin Fansler, Havre de Grace
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D