Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jan 2003
Source: Herald-Times, The (IN)
Copyright: 2003 The Herald-Times
Author: Clark Brittain

Make Loser A Winner

To the editor:

The Legislature could easily convert an economic loss leader into a winner: 
quit incarcerating non violent drug offenders. Indiana has over 34,000 
inmates, over 20 percent of whom are in jail for non violent drug offenses. 
According to the U.S. Justice Department, the true annual cost of 
incarceration is over $78,000 per year - this includes over $26,000 on 
corrections, about $17,000 on judicial and legal costs and another $35,000 
on police expense.

The RAND Corp. reported that for every additional $1 spent on source- 
country control the societal benefit is a loss of 85 cents, interdiction a 
loss of 68 cents and domestic enforcement a loss of 48 cents, while 
treatment results in a gain of $7.46.

The obvious question for the Legislature is: why are we not pursuing a more 
cost-effective way to treat over 6,800 inmates at an estimated cost of over 
$530 million when we could convert this to an estimated net gain of about 
$50,000 by simply offering treatment instead of arrest prosecution and 
incarceration? If we must "punish" drug users, consider a fine that is 
within reason and allow the drug offender an opportunity to work, pay the 
fine and undergo treatment.

This approach could be a big winner for the state.

It is also mandated constitutionally: Article I, Section 18 states: the 
penal code shall be based on principles of reformation and not vindictive 
justice. Our current code could not be called reformative.

Clark Brittain

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