Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jan 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Robert Sharpe


Jane Eisner's critique of racial profiling was excellent ("How to profile 
criminals? Check out their behaviors," Jan. 20).

Although only 15 percent of the nation's drug users are black, they account 
for 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, more than 42 percent 
of those in federal prisons for drug violations, and almost 60 percent of 
those in state prisons for drug felonies. Support for the drug war would 
end overnight if whites were incarcerated for drugs at the same rate as 
minorities. Racially disproportionate incarceration rates are not the only 
cause for alarm. Putting nonviolent drug offenders behind bars with 
hardened criminals is dangerous because prisons transmit violent habits and 
values. Most nonviolent drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal 
job prospects due to criminal records. Turning them into career criminals 
is not a good use of tax dollars. Rather than waste scarce resources 
turning potentially productive members of society who use drugs into 
unemployable ex-cons, we should be funding cost-effective treatment.

Robert Sharpe

Program Officer

Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation

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