Pubdate: Sun, 31 Jul 2005
Source: Muskogee Daily Phoenix (OK)
Copyright: 2005 Muskogee Daily Phoenix
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding Rep. Todd Hiett's July 23 op-ed, drug courts are 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 cost-effective?

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 $26,134 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. 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?

ROBERT SHARPE, MPA, policy analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington, D.C.
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