Pubdate: Sat, 18 May 2002
Source: Johnson City Press (TN)
Copyright: 2002 Johnson City Press and Associated Press



The Carter County drug court under consideration 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 rather than 
reduce them.

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

At present there is a glaring double standard in place. 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?


Program Officer Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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