Tracknum: 16803.47843ff4.335.c60.19313
Pubdate: Tue, 8 Jan 2008
Source: Savannah Morning News (GA)
Copyright: 2008 Savannah Morning News
Author: Robert Sharpe


Mandatory minimum prison sentences have done little other than give
the land of the free the highest incarceration rate in the world.
(Editorial, "Cracked Sentencing," Dec. 24)

The deterrent value of tough drug laws is grossly overrated. During
the crack epidemic of the 1980s, New York City chose the zero
tolerance approach, opting to arrest and prosecute as many offenders
as possible.

Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry was smoking crack and
America's capital had the highest per-capita murder rate in the country.

Yet crack use declined in both cities simultaneously.

The decline was not due to a slick anti-drug advertising campaign or
the passage of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Simply put, the
younger generation saw firsthand what crack was doing to their older
siblings and decided for themselves that crack was bad news.

This is not to say nothing can be done about hard drugs like crack or
methamphetamine, the latest headline grabber.

Access to substance abuse treatment is critical. Diverting resources
away from prisons and into cost-effective treatment would save both
tax dollars and lives.

The following U.S. Department of Justice research brief confirms my
claims regarding the spontaneous decline of crack cocaine:

Robert Sharpe

Policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy

Arlington, VA