Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jun 2001
Source: Plain Dealer, The (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Plain Dealer
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding the June 1 article "Help, not jail, urged for some drug

According to Stacey Frohnapfel, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of
Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, the threat of doing prison time is
what motivates drug users to clean up their acts. In reality, the threat
of prison is what keeps problem drug users from seeking help in the
first place. Would alcoholics seek treatment if doing so were tantamount
to confessing to criminal activity? Likewise, would putting all
incorrigible alcoholics 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 eventually are
released, with dismal job prospects due to criminal records. Turning
nonviolent 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 that
it is. Driving drug use underground only compounds the problem.

Robert Sharpe, Program Officer
Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, 
Washington, D.C.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk