Pubdate: Mon, 02 Apr 2001
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2001 Newsday Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Drug-Law Reforms Regarding the editorial on the latest proposed
reforms of Rockefeller drug laws ["Good Drug Deal," Viewpoints, March
19 ]: Increased funding for drug treatment is definitely a step in the
right direction, but an arrest should not be a prerequisite for treatment.

Law enforcement's continued involvement in addiction is part of the
problem. In order for drug treatment to be truly effective,
policymakers are going to have to tone down the tough-on-drugs
rhetoric. Driving illicit drug addiction underground only compounds
the problem.

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 threat of prison that coerced
treatment relies upon can backfire when it's actually put to use.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that prisons transmit
violent habits and values rather than reduce them.

Overall, the shift in priorities coming out of Albany is a welcome change. 
drug laws do not distinguish between occasional drug use and chronic abuse. 
illicit drug users hold jobs. Politically popular mandatory minimums have 
many a taxpaying recreational drug user into a long-term tax burden.

Robert Sharpe,
Washington, DC

Editor's Note: The writer is a program officer at The Lindesmith 
Center-Drug Policy Foundation.
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