Pubdate: Mon, 29 Jan 2001
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Houston Chronicle
Contact:  Viewpoints Editor, P.O. Box 4260 Houston, Texas 77210-4260
Fax: (713) 220-3575
Author: David A. Hawes
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Gov. Rick Perry has proposed spending $96 million on new prison 
construction. Why can't we do more forward thinking?

In 1996, Arizona passed a law that diverted nonviolent drug offenders into 
drug treatment and education rather than incarceration. Arizona's law 
probably makes good law-and-order citizens' hair stand on end, but a look 
at Arizona's four-year trial period might be sobering.

In Arizona, they have already saved taxpayers millions of dollars in prison 
construction costs and for other expenses that come with incarceration.

The best news is that 75 percent of the offenders referred to treatment 
have stayed clean, which has allowed Arizona to reserve its jail and prison 
cells for serious and violent offenders.

Texas leads the nation with 21 percent of our inmates incarcerated for 
nonviolent drug offenses.

A plan such as Arizona's offers a great opportunity for savings to 
taxpayers as well as real rehabilitation instead of the nonproductive 
warehousing system that is now in use.

Is this a "soft-on-crime" proposal? No, it is an idea that can make 
productive citizens out of thousands of wasted lives.

David A. Hawes,

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