Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jul 2005
Source: Chapel Hill News (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Chapel Hill News
Author:  Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Regarding Mark Schultz's July 3 Editor's Desk column "Prosecutor 
praises alternative court program," drug courts are 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

Arlington, Va.
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