Pubdate: Tue, 01 Jan 2002
Source: Spokesman-Review (WA)
Copyright: 2002 The Spokesman-Review
Author: Carl Paukstis


Bob Mielbrecht's letter (Dec. 24) misses the point of the proposal to shift 
from imprisonment to treatment for drug crimes. Nobody is suggesting that 
we stop sentencing thieves and carjackers and violent felons who are also 
druggies to just "treatment." If the change were implemented as Gov. Gary 
Locke's budget suggests, this would free up prison space to hold the 
burglars and bank robbers and real criminals Mielbrecht is worried about _ 
whether they're taking outlawed drugs or not.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics tells us that 21 percent of adult state 
prison inmates and 61 percent of all federal inmates are serving time for 
drug offenses. Forty-two percent of those state prisoners are incarcerated 
for possession alone, as are 18 percent of the federal drug inmates. Real 
criminals are now routinely released from prisons early, or not sent to 
prison at all, in order to make room for drug offenders who have harmed 
nobody but themselves.

The real problem with the proposal is that it doesn't go far enough. How 
much police manpower would be freed up to pursue real criminals if the cops 
didn't arrest people for drug possession at all? Continue to hold people 
responsible for anything they do to hurt others _ robbery, theft, assault, 
driving under the influence _ just as we do with alcohol and tobacco. But 
stop the nonsense that drugs are the problem. The drug laws are the problem.

Carl Paukstis Spokane, WA
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