Pubdate: Tue, 04 Jun 2002
Source: Bakersfield Californian, The (CA)
Copyright: 2002, The Bakersfield Californian
Author: Robert Sharpe


This is in response to your June 19 editorial on drug courts. Drug courts 
are 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 cost-effective?

The threat of prison that coerced treatment relies upon can backfire when 
it's actually put to use. Incarcerating non-violent drug offenders along 
side hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing them with a 
taxpayer-funded education in criminal behavior. Minor drug offenders are 
eventually released, with dismal job prospects due to criminal records. 
Turning recreational drug users into unemployable ex-cons is a senseless 
waste of tax dollars.

At present, there is a glaring double standard in place. 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 thrown in jail and given a permanent 
criminal record. 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 criminals?

Robert Sharpe, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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