Pubdate: Sat, 04 May 2002
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Support Treatment For Non-Violent Offenders

On rare occasions, something happens akin to the "stars aligning": Reform 
legislation comes along that represents enlightened public policy leading 
to improved health for at-risk communities and huge financial savings for 
the public pocketbook that is the morally right thing to do.

Together with the leaders of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin, 
Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, Lakeland Baptist 
Association, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United 
Methodist Church and Wisconsin Council of Rabbis, I write to raise this 
important matter.

We believe just such legislation is now before our state lawmakers. Senate 
Bill 496 is a proposal to sentence non-violent offenders convicted of 
drug-related crimes to treatment instead of prison.

The devastation wreaked by drugs in our society, particularly in low-income 
communities, cannot be overestimated. This legislation would lead to a huge 
financial savings for taxpayers.

It costs $21,000 per year to keep one person in prison; a year of treatment 
costs $5,500. A conservative estimate, based on Arizona's experience with 
treatment rather than prison, is that Wisconsin would save $10 million per 
year. The economic benefit is compounded when one considers that people in 
treatment can work, providing support for their families and paying taxes 
to the state.

Passing this legislation is the moral and rational thing to do. Our 
religious traditions commit us to working for the dignity and restoration 
to health of all people. Warehousing people in prison - particularly people 
who have not shown violent behavior - cannot be justified morally or 

We urge support for this enlightened and profitable legislation.

The Rev. Peter Rogness

Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Milwaukee
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