Pubdate: Mon, 06 Aug 2007
Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)
Copyright: 2007 News-Journal Corporation
Note: gives priority to local writers
Author: Robert Sharpe


Re the July 21 editorial "Drug court's making a difference":

As the policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy in Washington, 
D.C., I agree that 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 all incorrigible alcoholics 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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