Pubdate: Tue, 03 Aug 2010
Source: Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus,GA)
Copyright: 2010 Ledger-Enquirer
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding Dusty Nix?s July 30 editorial, the revision of federal
cocaine sentencing laws is indeed long overdue. The crack vs. cocaine
sentencing disparity still exists, but the recent reforms passed by
Congress are a big step in the right direction. Mandatory minimum
prison sentences have done little other than give the land of the free
the highest incarceration rate in the world.

The deterrent value of zero tolerance is grossly overrated. During the
crack epidemic of the ?80s, 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 the passage of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
Simply put, the younger generation saw first hand what crack was doing
to their older siblings and decided for themselves that crack was bad

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.

Robert Sharpe

Policy Analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington, D.C.
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