Pubdate: Fri, 23 Dec 2005
Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
Copyright: 2005 Asbury Park Press
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding Jon Shure's Dec. 14th op-ed, "Drug-free school zones keeping 
prison cells full," New Jersey is not the only state grappling with 
overcrowded prisons. Throughout the nation, states facing budget shortfalls 
are pursuing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.

A study conducted by the RAND Corp. found that every additional dollar 
invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.48 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. The children lose out, and 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 anti-social 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. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug 
war is worse.

Robert Sharpe,

Policy Analyst, Common Sense For Drug Policy, Washington, DC
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