Pubdate: Fri, 20 Sep 2002
Source: Pahrump Valley Times (NV)
Copyright: 2002 Pahrump Valley Times
Author: Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


Pahrump's new 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 help 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 

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. Minor drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal 
job prospects due to criminal records. Turning drug users into unemployable 
ex-cons is a senseless waste of tax dollars.

Alcohol and tobacco are by far the deadliest recreational drugs, yet the 
government does not go out of its way to destroy the lives of drinkers and 
smokers. 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? How many tax dollars would be wasted turning 
potentially productive members of society into hardened criminals?


Robert Sharpe, M.P.A., Program Officer

Drug Policy Alliance, Arlington, VA 22207
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