Pubdate: Wed, 08 Oct 2003
Source: Arizona Daily Wildcat (AZ Edu)
Copyright: 2003 Arizona Daily Wildcat
Author: Kris Brown


In a recent opinions column, Daniel Scarpinato asked what's so wrong with 
building prisons. I'm surprised he could seriously ask that question. 
Prisons do not solve our crime problems or instill respect for the law in 
their occupants. The majority of our quite large prison population is 
composed of non-violent drug offenders. We spend somewhere around 20-40 
thousand dollars per year to keep a drug offender in prison. Treatment 
would cost less than a few thousand dollars per year, yet the majority of 
prisoners who request drug treatment cannot get it due to insufficient 
funding. This seems highly illogical, since treatment programs have been 
shown to reduce recidivism from 67 percent to 13 percent.

The problem goes beyond the fact that treatment is not available for drug 
abusers. There is a big difference between use and abuse. This is most 
obvious when considering alcohol, one of the few semi-legal recreational 
drugs. Many people use alcohol responsibly to relax and have fun. Many 
others become alcoholics and/or engage in binge drinking. Abusers harm 
themselves and can cause problems for society. Users are generally 
responsible and productive citizens who would react negatively if forced 
into a treatment program (or prison) they didn't need. The same is true for 
users/abusers of illicit drugs. Our legal system has yet to make the 
distinction between these groups however. Until it does, we will continue 
buying new prisons without really impacting the criminal problem.

Kris Brown electrical engineering senior
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