Pubdate: Thu, 12 Dec 2002
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2002 Summit Daily News
Author: Robert Sharpe, M.P.A. program officer, Drug Policy Alliance, 
Washington, D.C.


Colorado state Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald is to be commended for introducing 
much-needed alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.

With violent crime continuing along a downward trend, the drug war is the 
principal reason the U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

At a cost of roughly $25,000 per inmate annually, maintaining the world's 
largest prison system can hardly be considered fiscally conservative.

A study conducted by the RAND Corp. found every dollar invested in 
substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs. There is 
far more at stake than tax dollars. The drug war is not the promoter of 
family values some would have us believe.

Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness, 
addiction and delinquency. Not only do the children lose out, but society 
as a whole does, too. Incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders along side 
hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing them with a 
taxpayer-funded education in criminal behavior.

Turning drug users into unemployable ex-cons is a senseless waste of tax 
dollars. 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. Destroying the futures and families of citizens who make 
unhealthy choices doesn't benefit anyone.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A. program officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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