Pubdate: Sun, 15 Apr 2001
Source: Herald American (NY)
Copyright: 2001, Syracuse Herald American
Author: Gene Tinelli


Bravo on your story about New York State's biggest economic growth sector 
('The Prison Boom", H-A, 4/8). It lucidly documented how the Rockefeller 
drug laws have fueled the NY prison-industrial complex. For those New 
Yorkers who are still ambivalent about abolishing the Rockefeller drug 
laws, a few economic facts are in order.

To incarcerate each new drug user, it costs NY State taxpayers 
approximately $150,000 to build a new prison cell, $150,000 to arrest and 
prosecute, and $200,000 to incarcerate for five years (a mild to moderate 
penalty under these antiquated drug laws). $500,000 to slam the prison door 
on a drug user to `educate' him/her.

New York State prosecutors, correction unions, and prison construction 
groups oppose the abolition of the Rockefeller drug laws. The thought of 
killing their cash cow is abhorrent to them. As usual, self-interest rules 
at taxpayer expense.

Data over the past three decades indicates the Rockefeller drug laws have 
never lowered substance use.

Ask yourself a question. How many drug users do we have to imprison to rid 
our State of the alleged scourge of drug use. One million, two 
million,  ten million? Whatever the personally acceptable figure, multiply 
it by $500,000. A few billion dollars here, a few billion dollars there, 
and pretty soon, we're talking `real money'.

If we bankrupt New York in the holy war against drugs, are we a more 
virtuous State?

End the Rockefeller drug laws now. Replace them with nothing. Let the Feds 
run their drug war. We can do it again and use the savings to reduce our 
taxes and attract real economic growth to New York.

Dr. Gene Tinelli, ReconsiDer: forum on drug policy, Jamesville
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