Pubdate: Sun, 27 Mar 2005
Source: Tuscaloosa News, The (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Tuscaloosa News
Author: Robert Sharpe


Dear Editor: Regarding your thoughtful March 21st editorial, Alabama
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 Corporation 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 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 non-violent 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

Arlington, Va.
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