Pubdate: Fri, 15 Dec 2000
Source: Home News Tribune (NJ)
Copyright: 2000 Home News Tribune
Contact:  35 Kennedy Blvd. East Brunswick, NJ 08816


David Harris' Dec. 11 column criticizing racial profiling as a 
strategy in the war against drugs was right on target. The drug war 
is arguably waged in a racist manner, with blacks bearing the brunt 
of zero-tolerance law enforcement. While only 15 percent of the 
nation's drug users are black, blacks account for 37 percent of those 
arrested for drug violations, over 42 percent of those in federal 
prisons for drug violations, and almost 60 percent of those in state 
prisons for drug felonies. Violent crime continues to trend downward, 
yet the Land of the Free recently earned the dubious distinction of 
having the highest incarceration rate in the world, with drug 
offenses accounting for the majority of federal incarcerations.

Support for the failed drug war would end overnight if whites were 
incarcerated for drug offenses at the same rates as blacks. Racially 
disproportionate incarceration rates are not the only cause for 
alarm. Our taxes are financing for-profit prison systems that serve 
to transmit violent habits and values rather than reduce them. Rather 
than waste scarce resources turning potentially productive members of 
society with drug problems into hardened criminals, we should be 
funding cost-effective treatment. It's time to rethink the failed 
drug war and start treating all substance abuse -- legal or otherwise 
- -- as the public-health problem it is.

Bryan M. Maldony
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MAP posted-by: Kirk Bauer