Pubdate: Sun, 23 Dec 2001
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2001 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Author: Robert Sharpe


This is regarding "Time's up for the war on drugs" (Dec. 16). Thanks in 
large part to a handful of committed activists in King County, Washington 
is one of many states whose lawmakers are debating prison vs. 
rehabilitation. The drug war is the principal reason the United States now 
has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

At an average cost of $25,071 per inmate annually, maintaining the world's 
largest prison system can hardly be considered fiscally conservative.

Treating substance abuse as a public health problem would do more than just 
save Washington taxpayers money. The criminal justice approach is a very 
real threat to public safety. Prisons transmit violent habits and values 
rather than reduce them.

Most non-violent drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal job 
opportunities due to criminal records. Turning recreational drug users into 
hardened criminals is not a good use of tax dollars.

Alcohol and tobacco are by far the two deadliest drugs, yet the government 
does not make it its business to actively destroy the lives of drinkers and 

Instead of wasting billions on a hypocritical war on some drugs we should 
be funding cost-effective drug treatment. Of course, in order for treatment 
to really work politicians are going to have to tone down the 
tough-on-drugs rhetoric. Would alcoholics seek help for their illness if 
doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity?

Robert Sharpe

Program Officer

The Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation

Washington, D.C.
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