Pubdate: Thu, 18 Nov 2004
Source: Southeast Missourian (MO)
Copyright: 2004 Southeast Missourian
Author: Robert Sharpe


To the editor:

The 32nd Judicial Circuit's drug court is definitely a step in the
right direction, but an arrest should not be a necessary prerequisite
for drug treatment. Would alcoholics seek help for their illness if
doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Likewise,
would putting every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars and saddling
them with criminal records prove cost-effective?

The United States recently earned the dubious distinction of having
the highest incarceration rate in the world, with drug offenses
accounting for the majority of federal incarcerations. This is big
government at its worst. At an average cost of $26,134 per inmate
annually, maintaining the world's largest prison system can hardly be
considered fiscally conservative.

The threat of prison that coerced treatment relies upon can backfire
when it's actually put to use. Prisons transmit violent habits rather
than reduce them. Imagine if every alcoholic were thrown in jail and
given a permanent criminal record. How many lives would be destroyed?
How many families torn apart? How many tax dollars would be wasted
turning potentially productive members of society into hardened criminals?

Robert Sharpe, Policy Analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington, D.C.
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