Pubdate: Sun, 16 Apr 2000
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Amarillo Globe-News
Contact:  P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166
Fax: (806) 373-0810
Author: Robert Sharpe


Professor David Keys of West Texas A&M University is right about the drug
war being responsible for some of the problems in America's criminal justice
system (April 9 article, "Criminologist - children of inmates most at
risk"). With violent crime rates continuing along a downward trend, the drug
war is the main reason the Land of the Free now has the highest
incarceration rate in the world. As noted in your recent article, the
children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness,
addiction and delinquency.  Not only do the children lose out, but society
as a whole does, too.  According to research published in American
Psychologist in its July 1998 edition, 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. The United States is making a big mistake
by criminalizing illicit substance abuse.  Imagine if every alcoholic in
America were denied treatment due to lack of funds.  Now take that one step
further.  Imagine if every alcoholic were thrown in jail and given a
permanent criminal record. How many lives would be destroyed?  How many
families torn apart and career aspirations shattered?  How many tax dollars
would be wasted turning potentially productive members of society into
hardened criminals?  It's time to rethink the failed drug war.

Robert Sharpe,
Students for Sensible Drug Policy,
George Washington University Washington
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