Pubdate: Thu, 30 Nov 2000
Date: 11/30/2000
Source: Christian Science Monitor (US)
Author: Robert Sharpe
Authors: Robert Sharpe

According to your Nov. 27 editorial on the overuse of incarceration,
"Wanted: the prison issue," it's estimated nearly half of the 2 million
inmates in the US are serving time for small-time drug possession and other
nonviolent crimes.Putting Americans with drug problems behind bars with
hardened criminals is a dangerous proposition.

According to research published in American Psychologist, about
one-fourth of those initially imprisoned for nonviolent crimes are
sentenced for a second time for committing a violent offense. Whatever
else it reflects, this pattern highlights the possibility that prison
serves to transmit violent habits and values rather than to reduce
them. It's time to rethink the failed drug war and start treating all
substance abuse - legal or otherwise - as the public health problem
that it is.

Robert Sharpe,
  The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, Washington