Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2003
Source: West Hawaii Today (HI)
Copyright: 2003 West Hawaii Today
Section: Viewpoint 
Author: Robert Sharpe,
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Treatment)



Ray Tostado perpetuates the myth of the "pusher" in his Jan. 29 letter. The
illegal drug trade is profitable not because of slick marketing, but rather
because of overwhelming demand on the part of consumers. Putting more
non-violent drug offenders behind bars is not the answer. If harsh penalties
served to deter drug use the elusive goal of a "drug-free" America would
have been achieved decades ago. 

Instead of adding to what is already the highest incarceration are in the
world, we should be funding cost-effective drug treatment. A study conducted
by the RAND Corporation found that every dollar invested in substance abuse
treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs. There is far more at
stake than tax dollars. 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 along side
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. 

Reference for above-mentioned RAND study:

Source: Rydell, C.P. & Everingham, S.S., Controlling Cocaine, Prepared for
the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the United States Army (Santa
Monica, CA: Drug Policy Research Center, RAND Corporation, 1994), p. xvi.

Robert Sharpe 

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C.
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