Pubdate: Thu, 17 Mar 2005
Source: Las Vegas Mercury (NV)
Copyright: 2005 Las Vegas Mercury
Author: Robert Sharpe


Nevada is not the only state grappling with overcrowded prisons ["When in
Doubt, Lock 'Em Up," Randall G. Shelden, March 10]. 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. There is far more at stake than tax

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 antisocial 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,

Common Sense for Drug Policy,

Washington, D.C.
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