Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 2004
Source: High Point Enterprise (NC)
Copyright: 2004 High Point (N.C.) Enterprise
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding your thoughtful April 18 editorial on the habitual felon law, 
North Carolina is not the only state grappling with overcrowded prisons. 
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 dollar invested in 
substance-abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.48 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 nonviolent 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.


Arlington, Va.

The writer is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy in 
Washington, D.C.
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