Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2003
Source: Times, The  (Munster IN)
Copyright: 2003 The Munster Times
Author: Robert Sharpe


The Partnership for a Drug-Free Lake County should be headed up by a doctor,
not an endless series of sheriffs and prosecutors. Using the criminal
justice system to deal with substance abuse makes as much sense as using a
baseball bat to fix a broken bone. Law enforcement and treatment are
mutually exclusive.

Would alcoholics seek help for their illness if doing so were tantamount to
confessing to criminal activity?

A study conducted by the RAND Corp. found that 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 that 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 alongside
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

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