Pubdate: Sat, 01 Oct 2005
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2005 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Many low-level drug dealers who want to come clean will no doubt need
drug treatment ("Dear Baltimore drug dealers," Sept. 24). The zero
tolerance drug war poses a formidable barrier. Law enforcement and
rehabilitation are mutually exclusive. Would alcoholics seek help for
their illness if doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal
activity? 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.

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?

Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe

Arlington, Va.

The writer is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.
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