Pubdate: Sat, 17 Mar 2012
Source: Daily Item (Sunbury, PA)
Copyright: 2012 The Daily Item


Howard Wooldridge, an anti-drug war crusader, will make his second 
visit in three years to the Central Susquehanna Valley in the coming 
week, and his itinerary is packed.

Wooldridge is due to speak at Susquehanna University, Bucknell 
University, Lycoming College, before the Lewisburg Rotary Club and at 
the Northumberland Senior Action Center. Wooldridge's visits are 
being sponsored and co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties 
Union, Central Susquehanna Chapter, in Lewisburg.

Wooldridge takes the radical position that America ought to surrender 
in the drug war. Every moment a police officer invests in chasing a 
drug dealer or drug user is time that could be better spent chasing 
or arresting drunken drivers or pedophiles.

Wooldridge is a former police officer who maintains that society 
ought to treat narcotics the same as alcohol. One does not have to 
agree with Wooldridge to recognize that he is right to insist that 
the lawmakers take a long look at the ineffectiveness and expense 
associated with our current strategy.

The community organizations that are providing Wooldridge a forum are 
to be commended. The judicial system has been struggling to adapt to 
the strains placed on it by the volume of cases associated with drug 
crime. Every six months or so, timed to coincide with the Druid 
calendar or the election calendar (who knows?) police scurry hither 
and thither and round up drug users and dealers in choreographed 
parades of shame. It is no solution. The number of defendants 
involved in these sweeps topped 100 in the most recent spectacle.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner noted 
that nonviolent offenders, including those involved in drug crimes, 
account for 39 percent of the inmates in state prison as the 
corrections system population swells. Each prisoner costs the state 
approximately $33,000 annually, for a total yearly cost of nearly $1.7 billion.

The judicial system has struggled to adapt to the strains of the drug 
war. Innovative strategies like drug treatment court, which pairs 
drug counseling with court supervision, address the symptoms rather 
than the underlying disease.

Wooldridge's legalization plan may be too extreme for many people to 
accept. What we are now doing is not working and Wooldridge is doing 
a public service in providing an opportunity for taxpayers and 
elected officials to think about and debate our drug policy.
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