Pubdate: Wed, 09 Jan 2002
Source: Traverse City Record-Eagle (MI)
Copyright: 2002 The Traverse City Record-Eagle
Author: Robert Sharpe


This letter is in response to the Jan. 4 editorial, "Grand Traverse 
County's Drug Court is worth a try.' The Grand Traverse County Drug Court 
is definitely a step in the right direction, but an arrest should not be a 
necessary prerequisite for drug treatment. Would alcoholics seek treatment 
for their illness 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? The United 
States recently earned the dubious distinction of having the highest 
incarceration rate in the world, with drug offenses accounting for the 
majority of federal incarcerations. This is big government at its worst. At 
an average cost of $25,071 per inmate annually, maintaining the world's 
largest prison system can hardly be considered fiscally conservative.

The threat of prison that coerced treatment relies upon can backfire when 
it's actually put to use. Prisons transmit violent habits and values rather 
than reduce them. Most drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal 
job prospects due to criminal records. Turning recreational drug users into 
hardened criminals is a senseless waste of tax dollars.

At present there is a glaring double standard in place. Alcohol and tobacco 
are by far the two deadliest recreational drugs, yet government does not 
make it their business to actively destroy the lives of drinkers and 
smokers. It's time to declare peace in the failed drug war and begin 
treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health 
problem it is.

Robert Sharpe

Program Officer

Washington, DC

Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation
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