Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jun 2001
Source: Recorder, The (CA)
Copyright: 1999 NLP IP Company
Author: Robert Sharpe,
Bookmark: (Substance Abuse and Crime 
Prevention Act)


A Call For A Truce In The War On Drugs

The implementation of Proposition 36 may be difficult, but the shift toward 
public health approaches to drug use is long overdue ("Learning to Live 
With Prop 36," May 25). With violent crime rates continuing along a 
downward trend, the drug war is the primary reason the United States now 
has the highest incarceration rate in the world. At an average cost of 
$25,071 per inmate annually, maintaining the world's largest prison system 
can hardly be considered fiscally conservative.

Putting Americans with substance abuse problems behind bars with hardened 
criminals is a dangerous proposition. Prisons transmit violent habits and 
values rather than reduce them. Harsh drug laws do not distinguish between 
occasional drug use and chronic abuse.

Politically popular mandatory minimums have turned many a taxpaying 
recreational drug user into a long-term tax burden. In order for drug 
treatment to be truly effective policymakers are going to have to tone down 
the tough-on-drugs rhetoric. Would alcoholics seek treatment if doing so 
were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Likewise, would putting 
every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars and saddling them with criminal 
records prove cost-effective?

It's time to declare peace in the failed drug war. The growing number of 
Americans who favor public health approaches to substance abuse are looking 
to California to lead the way.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A. Program Officer

The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, Washington, D.C. 
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