Pubdate: Wed, 17 Dec 2014
Source: Northwest Arkansas Times (Fayetteville, AR)
Copyright: 2014 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Author: Brad Bailey


Regarding "How We See It: Prison Ideas Offer Hope for Solutions" 
(Dec. 4): If no one else is willing to spell it out, I will. Much of 
the overcrowding in Arkansas prisons is caused by state legislators 
who know they stand a greater chance of getting elected if they take 
a get-tough-on-drugs stance, and by law enforcement agencies who 
profit from the war on drugs via federal grant money and asset 
forfeiture laws. It's in the interest of both groups to broaden the 
definition of "lawbreakers" to be as inclusive as possible. In other 
words, the problem is systemic.

According to a study this year by the Office of National Drug Control 
Policy, the incarceration rate for non-violent drug offenders has 
skyrocketed, with arrests for simple possession of marijuana having 
tripled since 1991. All of this despite a general decline in crime nationwide.

A graph showing arrest rates for marijuana possession was provided by 
an article in the Washington Post, and what it showed was shocking: 
"At least 658,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 
2012, accounting for 42 percent of all drug arrests and 5.4 percent 
of all arrests for any offense."

And from the drug policy office website: "Drug addiction is not a 
moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented 
and treated." In other words, addiction should be addressed in the 
medical arena, not the criminal justice system.

The Arkansas Department of Community Correction is spot on in its 
recommendations to offer job skills and re-entry training to inmates 
in an effort to reduce recidivism rates. But these suggestions, 
without a comprehensive reform of Arkansas drug laws, will not solve 
the problem of our ever-growing prison population.

Until Arkansas legislators review and revise current laws to reflect 
a saner approach to drug policy, and until state and local law 
enforcement agencies are deterred from policing for profit from the 
drug war, the problem of prison overcrowding will continue.

BRAD BAILEY Fayetteville
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