Pubdate: Sun, 22 Jun 2003
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Bill Fogarty


Cynthia Tucker's focus on discriminatory sentencing practices deflects 
attention from the root cause of the excessive prison population: misguided 
drug laws.

Automobiles and alcohol kill more people every year than illegal drugs. We 
accept the use of these legal products as part of a free society. Their 
dangerous misuse, where others are involved, is appropriately punished.

Misinformation and scare tactics, rather than rational thinking, create a 
cultural bias that leads us to lock up people who consume drugs, whether or 
not their use endangers others.

Taxpayers should wake up to the fact that they fund the tuition and room 
and board for drug-user inmates to learn the more violent techniques of the 
criminal trade from hard-core offenders. Many of these trainees could be 
working, taxpaying citizens if it weren't for existing drug laws. As Tucker 
points out, the economic costs of this continuing folly are enormous and 
weigh disproportionately on the black community.

Lighter and fairer sentencing practices alleviate a symptom but don't 
address the disease. Decriminalization with appropriate regulation is 
what's needed.

BILL FOGARTY, Alpharetta
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