Pubdate: Mon, 03 Jun 2002
Source: Poughkeepsie Journal (NY)
Copyright: 2002 Poughkeepsie Journal
Author: Robert Sharpe


The Ulster County drug court is definitely a step in the right direction, 
but an arrest should not be a necessary prerequisite for drug treatment.

Would alcoholics seek help 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 

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 
drug offenses accounting for the majority of federal incarcerations. At an 
average annual cost of $25,071 per inmate, maintaining the world's largest 
prison system can hardly be considered fiscally conservative.

The threat of prison that coerced treatment relies upon can backfire when 
it's actually put to use. Prisons transmit violent habits rather than 
reduce them. Minor drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal job 
prospects because of criminal records. Turning recreational drug users into 
unemployable ex-cons is a senseless waste of tax dollars.

Alcohol and tobacco are by far the deadliest recreational drugs, yet the 
government does not go out of its way to destroy the lives of drinkers and 
smokers. Imagine if every alcoholic were imprisoned. How many lives would 
be destroyed? How many families torn apart? How many tax dollars would be 
wasted, turning potentially productive members of society into hardened 

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

Program Officer, Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth