Pubdate: Thu, 28 Dec 2000
Source: News Journal (DE)
Copyright: 2000 The News Journal
Contact:  Letters to Editor, Box 15505, Wilmington, DE 19850
Fax: (302) 324-2595
Author: Floyd E. McDowell Sr., of Bear, is chairman for civic/political
positions of the Independent Party of Delaware.


The largest increase in Delaware's annual budgets is for building and
operating prisons.

More than 80 percent of Delaware's prisoners are nonviolent offenders with
drug problems. In all other industrialized nations, nonviolent addicts are
treated as a health problem, not as criminals. No money is made on treating
addicts, but money is made hand over fist by expanding prisons. Construction
costs amount to about $200,000 per cell. Add at least another $75,000 for a
three-year minimum sentence.

The costly war on drugs is an effective propaganda campaign. A cancerous
state and national bureaucracy is allowed to siphon off unlimited taxpayer
funds. Even the military-industrial complex is now at the trough since
President Clinton gave Colombia $1.3 billion to buy helicopters and other
equipment to fight narcotrafficking.

Nicotine kills 450,000 Americans each year, yet we give farmers funds to
help them grow tobacco. Alcohol kills 100,000 each year; 20,000 are innocent
victims. The drugs we've criminalized kill about 15,000 each year. Drug
addiction is tragic and should be treated through our health care system.

When Delaware's elected decision-makers keep urging, "Get tougher on them"
and continue to expand our prison population, they ignore sensible solutions
used elsewhere.

Arizona has a cost-effective, community-based drug treatment program for
nonviolent drug offenders.

A drug court, probation department and drug treatment program monitor each
offender's progress. If an offender does not strictly complete all parts of
the treatment plan, incarceration is immediate. Those who follow their
treatment plan are under house arrest yet work and stay with their families.

The Arizona plan has a success rate of slightly more than 70 percent with
nonviolent drug offenders. After successful completion, Arizona reduces the
felony charge to a misdemeanor.

Whenever war is declared for any purpose, citizens may lose some rights. The
war on drugs has diminished the protection the Fourth Amendment gives us
from search and seizure.

Law enforcement officers can arbitrarily stop and seize automobiles, money
and other assets if they inform innocent victims they believe illegal drugs
are involved. Law enforcement agencies sometimes share in the spoils from

Even homes can be invaded without announcement and legally burglarized if
law enforcement raiders suspect drug use or sales.

Our costly, inhuman laws and policies are seriously damaging the lives of
addicted youth and adults while causing additional pain and suffering for
their family members.
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MAP posted-by: Don Beck