Pubdate: Wed, 24 Oct 2001
Source: Daily Herald, The (UT)
Copyright: 2001 The Daily Herald
Author: Robert Sharpe


According to your Oct. 21 article, Stephen Allred of the Utah County 
Division of Human Services is claiming that a state law requiring 
parental permission for surveys is hampering efforts to gauge the 
extent of the drug problem. Higher numbers won't necessarily increase 
survey accuracy. Surveys that rely on self-reporting are useless in 
this age of zero tolerance. Despite assurances of anonymity, students 
know that honest answers could result in drug-sniffing dogs and 
locker searches at school.

Not only does the zero tolerance approach complicate information 
gathering, it also discourages voluntary drug treatment. Would 
alcoholics seek treatment for their illness 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.

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.

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