Pubdate: Thu, 14 Feb 2002
Source: Prince George's Journal (MD)
Copyright: 2002 The Journal Newspapers
Author: Robert Sharpe


Kudos to The Journal for making the case for rehabilitation instead of 
incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders (``Rehabilitation," editorial, 
Feb. 8).

The drug war's burden on taxpayers gets higher every year as ever more drug 
users and dealers are incarcerated for consensual vices. Drug use continues 
unabated as replacement dealers immediately step in to reap inflated 
illicit market profits. At an annual cost of roughly $25,000 per inmate, 
the punitive approach to minor drug offenses is simply not sustainable.

The option of treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug 
offenders will do more than just save taxpayers money. The drug war is not 
the promoter of family values that some would have us believe. Children of 
inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness, addiction and 
delinquency. Not only do the children lose out, but society as a whole 
does, too. Prisons transmit violent habits. Incarcerating recreational drug 
users alongside violent criminals is the equivalent of providing them with 
a taxpayer-funded education in criminal behavior. Non-violent drug 
offenders are eventually released, with dismal job opportunities due to 
criminal records.

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 
actively attempt 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 would be torn apart? 
How many tax dollars would be wasted turning potentially productive members 
of society into hardened criminals?

program officer
Drug Policy Alliance
Washington, D.C. 
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