Pubdate: Sun, 17 Jun 2001
Source: Nevada Appeal (NV)
Copyright: 2001 Nevada Appeal
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Kudos to the Nevada Appeal for an excellent June 14th editorial on
lessons learned in drug policy! The conclusion that "if we treated users
we could have more Jennifer Capriatis serving for championships rather
than serving time" says it all. 

The hard part is convincing "tough on drugs" politicians that an arrest
should not be a necessary prerequisite for treatment. Driving use
underground compounds the problem. Would alcoholics seek treatment if
doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Likewise,
would putting every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars and saddling them
with criminal records prove cost-effective? 

The United States recently earned the dubious distinction of having the
highest incarceration rate in the world, with drug offenses accounting
for the majority of federal incarcerations. This is big government at
its worst. 

At an average cost of $25,071 per inmate annually, maintaining the
world's largest prison system can hardly be considered fiscally
conservative. The threat of prison that coerced treatment relies upon
can backfire when it's actually put to use. 

Prisons transmit violent habits and values rather than reduce them. Most
drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal job prospects due to
criminal records. Turning non-violent drug offenders into hardened
criminals is a senseless waste of tax dollars. 

It's time to declare peace in the failed drug war and start treating all
substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health problem it is. 

Robert Sharpe, Program Officer 
The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation 
Washington, D.C.
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