Pubdate: Tue, 17 Aug 2004
Source: Herald-Dispatch, The (Huntington, WV)
Copyright: 2004 The Herald-Dispatch
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


This is a comment offered in response to "Treating addicts can cut jail 
costs," a column appearing on this page on Aug. 11.

West Virginia is not the only state grappling with overcrowded jails. 
Throughout the nation, states facing budget shortfalls are pursuing 
alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.

A study conducted by the RAND Corp. found that every additional dollar 
invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.48 in societal costs.

But 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 nonviolent drug offenders alongside hardened criminals is the 
equivalent of providing them with a taxpayer-funded education in 
anti-social 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, MPA

Policy Analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Washington, D.C.
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