Pubdate: Sun, 22 Sep 2002
Source: Plain Dealer, The (OH)
Copyright: 2002 The Plain Dealer
Author: Richard A. Eastburn


In response to The Plain Dealer survey about treatment for drug addicts vs. 
incarceration ("Ohioan oppose drug issue on ballot," Sept. 16):

The majority in this survey is misinformed. In 1980, the American Baptist 
Convention approved a resolution calling for treatment, rather than 
incarceration, of drug addicts. This was based on the success of treating 
alcoholics during Prohibition in the 1920s and '30s vs. the grim results of 
incarceration. Punishment seldom, if ever, improves a person. Education, 
and changing beliefs, values and habits work. This was the foundation of 
the resolution I proposed and had passed at the American Baptist Convention.

Prison, by any name, is usually a college for crime development. People who 
go there are most often worse after coming out. In Ohio, there is a model 
"prison." I have been impressed by the change in the prisoners who are in a 
treatment and education program at Marion Correctional Institution. This 
kind of prison is rare. Most wardens do not have the vision and values to 
implement this approach, but Warden Christine Money does.

First-time drug offenders should not be candidates for incarceration. 
Treatment by drug and group therapy is the best route to follow, and it is 
a lot less expensive. I learned this at Daytop Village in New York City 
while a board member. This widely supported organization for drug addicts 
had a 92 percent success rate with all kinds of addiction problems.

If we can't learn and use the lessons of the past, what good are we? 
Prohibition is that lesson. We do not need to repeat this immoral mess 
again. Street crime would end today, as it did at the end of Prohibition, 
if government took a different tactic. We need to take a problem-solving 
approach, not seek punishment.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction says it will have a 
budget for fiscal 2003 of $1.6 billion. That is our cost to incarcerate all 
lawbreakers. The DRC also said there were 44,580 inmates on Sept. 9, 2002 - 
that's a cost per inmate of $35,890 a year.

Do you want to pay that bill when there is a better choice for drug users?

Richard A. Eastburn

Chagrin Falls
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