Pubdate: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 Source: Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME) Copyright: 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc Contact: http://centralmaine.mainetoday.com/readerservices/lettertotheeditor.html Website: http://www.centralmaine.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1405 Author: Robert Sharpe DRUG ABUSE IS BAD, BUT THE DRUG WAR IS WORSE Regarding Evert Fowle's Dec. 10 commentary, Kennebec County is not the only jurisdiction grappling with overcrowded jails. 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 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 Policy Analyst Common Sense for Drug Policy Washington, D.C.