Pubdate: Sat, 09 Nov 2002
Source: Times of South Mississippi, The (MS)
Copyright: The Times of South Mississippi 2002
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


Drug courts are definitely a step in the right direction, but an arrest 
should not be a necessary prerequisite for rehabilitation. 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 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. 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
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