Pubdate: Fri, 15 Jun 2001
Source: Fox News Network (US)
Show: Hannity & Colmes
Copyright: 2001 Fox News Network, Inc.
Hosts: Alan Colmes, Sean Hannity
Guest: Peter Kerr, vice president of public affairs of Phoenix House

Is the War on Drugs a Hopeless Battle?

COLMES: Welcome back to HANNITY & COLMES. I'm Alan

Coming up: Does a soldier have the right to decide if he wants to
fight under the U.N. banner?

And is divorce ever a reason for celebration? We'll find

First: Is America winning the war on drugs? According to a new report of the
Partnership for a Drug-Free America, overall drug use rates are lower than they
were 15 years ago. Can we rest assured that the trend will continue?

We're joined by Peter Kerr, vice president of public affairs of
Phoenix House, a leading national substance abuse treatment program.

Aren't we still putting too much money into interdiction, not enough
money into treatment and care for people who need it?

PETER KERR, PHOENIX HOUSE: Yeah, I think that's a big part of the
problem. We've been putting a lot of money into helicopters and
speedboats, which is a very dramatic thing to do. But the truth is
that the progress that we've made over the past 15 years has come from
the education we're doing in our schools and from the treatment that
can be very effective in getting the worst abusers out of the drug

COLMES: Right. And we have an administration now that's talking more
about interdiction, less about treatment, and they're not going in the
right direction, it seems, with the monies they're now about to be

KERR: Well, you know, we see mixed signals coming out of Washington.
The president made a very good statement about having the secretary of
health and human services look at how much treatment we've got and
seeing if we can't increase the amount of treatment we've got.

COLMES: Wouldn't legalization make sense? We've really not solved the
drug war. There still is a war. We haven't won this war.
Decriminalization lowers the price, takes the criminal element out of
it, put the money all into treatment and get people better because
treatment, it's been shown, works.

KERR: Well, you know, Phoenix House treats more than 5,000 people any
day in this country in eight states around the country. We've treated
100,000 people over the last 30 years. And the answer we've got to
that is no. The reason that that thinking is wrong is that the problem
isn't with the laws, although the laws are sometimes imperfect. The
problem is with the drugs themselves. People become irrational under
drugs and they start to do things that are destructive to their
families and to their neighborhoods.

COLMES: Making it a crime, making it illegal, putting people in jail,
using the jail and the criminal justice system and spending all that
money there has not been a good use of federal funds or local funds.

KERR: Well, I agree with you. We don't want to put people in jail.
What we want to do is put them into a treatment program where they can
stop using the drug. But as long as people are still using those
drugs, the severe abusers are going to be committing crimes...

COLMES: But as long as it's illegal, they're not -- you're not going
to get preference. It's going to be more a criminal issue than a
therapeutic issue.

KERR: I think there's a lot of room for reform. There are a lot of
experiments going on in places like California now, where we can get
treatment instead of the laws of putting people into long prison terms.


KERR: Yes?

HANNITY: Peter, should treatment on demand be available to anybody
that asks for it?

KERR: Yes. We should have treatment available to anybody who needs

HANNITY: And who's going to pay for it?

KERR: The treatment should be paid for by the families that have
people in treatment. And where that's not...

HANNITY: Oh. Treatment on demand for people that can't afford it.
Families can't afford it. How does -- how are we going to pay for all

KERR: Well, in cases where you have people in the criminal justice
system, it makes sense to get those people off of drugs, whether the
treatment is in the prison system or...

HANNITY: So the taxpayers.

KERR: Yes.

HANNITY: So you know, what's frustrating to me is, you know, we're all
the sum total of all the past decisions we've all made in our lives.
People make choices. And if somebody decides to get up in the morning
and smoke crack or inject heroin, now they've -- they've burdened
society with the drug war, and now they want the taxpayers to bail
them out and give them treatment.

Is that fair, for the average person that sees 40 percent of their
income ripped away from them each and every day, from the federal
government, state government, local government in taxation? Why should
they have to pay for the mistakes other people make?

KERR: Well, they're paying for it either way if those people are going
to prisons, which is usually what happens to somebody who's a serious
addict. And what they're paying is anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 a
year for a prison sentence.

HANNITY: And how many people get cured the first time they go to

KERR: Well...

HANNITY: Very low percentage, I've read.

KERR: Well, the percentages vary. They can be as high -- with the
success rates we have now for people who graduate from our programs,
are about 75 percent are...

HANNITY: And how much does it cost to go through your

KERR: About $18,000 a year for people in community-based programs.
That's out in the community. In a jail, it's only adding 10 percent to
the cost of a year's -- of a year's stay in prison.

HANNITY: Yeah. What bothers me, this is all big business for you,
Peter, because as long as these people are addicted and you get
treatment on demand, the taxpayers have to pay for it, you're making a
huge profit. And I'm going to tell you something. As a taxpayer who
works very hard -- and the average person that can't afford a
vacation, can't afford a new car, can't afford to send their kids to
private school, can't afford all these things, we're going to take
their hard-earned money and more of it to pay for somebody to go get
drug treatment on demand.

I resent it. I think it's wrong, and I think it's immoral. I think
it's unfair! You know, when are we -- when is somebody in this country
ever going to stand up for the little guy, the American taxpayer, and
say enough is enough? And that's what you're advocating here. You want
your piece of the pie. Somebody else wants their piece of the pie. At
what point do we say it's unfair?

KERR: Well, let me -- let me respond to that. What do you do when you
got a 16-year-old kid, you come home and you find he's on heroin or
cocaine and is severely addicted? You know that the life he's going to
lead is going to have him going in and out of prisons.

HANNITY: I know. The 16-year-old kid, the 30-year-old man who has

KERR: Or a 40...

HANNITY: The 40-year-old man who has kids. There's always somebody
that wants a piece of our money! Why can't people manage their own
lives? And if they don't manage their own lives, we're going to put
them away in a prison. And you know what? I would make -- I would -- I
would not have as accommodating prisons as we presently do. I'd get
rid of cable TV, except HANNITY & COLMES, get rid of the weight rooms,
basketball rooms. And I'd make the jail a miserable place, so then
maybe when they get back out on the street, they won't want to go back
again. Could that serve as a deterrent?

KERR: What I'd suggest is that the people who go through treatment are
not going back into prison time and time and time again. Your solution
is a much more expensive solution for the taxpayer. These people who
are going...

HANNITY: No, it's not.

KERR: It's a much more...

HANNITY: No, it's not.

KERR: ... expensive -- people -- the reincarceration rate now in

HANNITY: I'd also embarrass people...

COLMES: All right, we're out of time.

HANNITY: ... and -- and put their pictures...

COLMES: Peter, thank you very much.

HANNITY: ... in the paper!

COLMES: Coming up: Should U.S. soldiers be forced to wear a U.N.
emblem on his uniform? That fair and balanced debate is just ahead.
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