Pubdate: Sun, 16 Dec 2007
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2007 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: James A. Farren


Hal Don House, in his Dec. 12 guest column, "Prison not  part of
solution to drug, alcohol addiction," asserts  that:

- - Incarceration is an inappropriate response to drug

- - The war on drugs has been lost;

- - Drug abusers are forced to violate the law by genetic
predisposition; and

- - Legislators intentionally enact ineffective drug laws  to gain

The positions taken by House are ill-conceived, poorly  reasoned and

His first polemic posits that because drug law  violators are addicts,
prison is an ineffective  response, arguing that treatment is the only
  appropriate solution.

House fails to understand the purpose of incarceration.  Punishment in
the criminal justice system serves three  primary societal demands:
deterrence, rehabilitation  and retribution. Even if House is correct,
and prison  will not cure an addiction, there remains deterrence  and
retribution. Since space is limited, we will limit  our review to deterrence.

Society, parents in particular, oppose the ready  availability of
dangerous drugs on our streets. Every  incarcerated drug abuser
reduces the number of drug  users and dealers on our streets. And
House is deluding  himself if he believes that most users are not also

House's second position is that the war on drugs has  been lost. Is
House suggesting, with this hackneyed  argument, that because some
individuals still choose to  violate our drug laws we should forsake
incarceration  as a tool? We imprison murderers, burglars, thieves,
sex offenders and other law violators. Should we  abandon our response
to these criminal acts because,  despite the incarceration of many,
others still commit  similar crimes?

The war on drugs has been won or lost to the same  degree the war on
other criminal activity has been won  or lost.

The third invalid argument offered by House asserts  that drug abusers
are forced to violate the law by  genetics. Let us assume that genetic
predisposition  plays a role in the choices made by drug offenders.
Should we attempt to address that possibility by  offering treatment?


House assumes that either prison or treatment are the  only options.
The reality is that treatment and prison  are not mutually exclusive
alternatives. Treatment is  available in and out of prison. Whether an
individual  chooses to take advantage of it is up to him or her.

In addition, a genetic predisposition to behave in a  certain way is
not a "get out of jail free" card.  Serial murderers, rapists,
pedophiles and other  occupants of our penal environs suffer from
genetic  predispositions. Should we waive prison as a response  to
these crimes as well?

A large number of people with genetic predispositions  choose to
resist those urges and live productive lives.  Many alcoholics, drug
addicts and others with genetic  challenges have proved it can be
done. They choose to  not surrender to their instincts but to exercise
their  intelligence and will in making decisions. Those who do
surrender should be held accountable, in addition to  being offered

Finally, House attacks the integrity of our  legislators. He proffers
the theory that lawmakers are  aware that our current approach is a
sham but choose to  pretend otherwise for the sake of

Our legislators are well aware of all the arguments  offered by House
and his ilk. They also are cognizant  of the logical poverty of such
arguments. Drug and  alcohol abuse, like all criminal activity,
require many  responses. One response that is absolutely critical is
incarceration in appropriate cases.

House has taken a morally indefensible position. He  admits that he
worked in the system long enough to draw  retirement. Therefore, he
willingly accepted money for  participating in what he describes as a
bankrupt and  disingenuous process. For House to malign the character
of our legislators reminds one of a pot making  accusations against a

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James A. Farren has served as criminal district  attorney for Randall
County since 1995.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath