Pubdate: Fri, 01 Dec 2000
Source: Standard-Examiner (UT)
Copyright: Ogden Publishing Corporation, 2000
Contact:  P.O. Box 951 Ogden, UT 84402
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: MAP's link to Utah articles is:
Note: Robert Sharpe, program director The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy 
Foundation Washington, D.C.


Regarding the Nov. 17 article on Utah's expanding drug courts, treatment 
has been proven to be far more cost-effective than incarceration. Yet in 
order for drug treatment to be truly effective -- and not necessarily 
preceded by an arrest -- policymakers are going to have to tone down the 
zero-tolerance rhetoric of the drug war.

Tough-on-drugs attitudes discourage the type of honest discussion necessary 
to facilitate treatment. Driving illicit drug addiction underground is 
counterproductive and only compounds the problem. Nonetheless, drug courts 
are definitely a step in the right direction.

With violent crime rates continuing along a downward trend, the drug war is 
the main reason America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. 
Putting Americans with substance-abuse problems behind bars with hardened 
criminals is a dangerous proposition. According to research published in 
American Psychologist, about one-fourth of those initially imprisoned for 
non-violent crimes are sentenced for a second time for committing a violent 

Whatever else it reflects, this pattern highlights the possibility that 
prison serves to transmit violent habits and values rather than to reduce them.

The United States is making a big mistake by criminalizing illicit 
substance abuse. Imagine if every alcoholic in America were denied 
treatment due to lack of funds. Now take that one step further. Imagine if 
every alcoholic were thrown in jail and given a permanent criminal record.

How many lives would be destroyed? How many families would be torn apart 
and career aspirations shattered? How many tax dollars would be wasted 
turning potentially productive members of society into hardened criminals? 
It's time to rethink the failed drug war.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart