Pubdate: Sat, 15 Feb 2003
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2003 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe


District Justice Robert Wyda clearly has his priorities in order ("Judge 
offers offenders rehab instead of jail cell," Feb. 9). Bethel Park's newly 
found emphasis on rehabilitation instead of incarceration will save both 
lives and tax dollars.

A study conducted by the RAND Corporation found that every dollar invested 
in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs. 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.

Incarcerating non-violent drug offenders alongside hardened criminals is 
the equivalent of providing them with a taxpayer-funded education in 
criminal behavior.

Turning drug users into unemployable ex-cons is a senseless waste of tax 
dollars. It's time to declare peace in the failed drug war and begin 
treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health 
problem it is.

Destroying the futures and families of citizens who make unhealthy choices 
doesn't benefit anyone. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe, Washington, D.C.

The writer is program officer for Drug Policy Alliance.
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