Pubdate: Fri, 22 Apr 2005
Source: News & Advance, The (VA)
Copyright: 2005 Media General
Author: Thomas Hanes


The proposed regional jail in Amherst will surely bring out many differing 
opinions regarding where it should be, how many inmates it should hold and 
how much it will cost the already over-taxed taxpayers. One question I'm 
sure few will ask, but should is, "Why do we need more and more jails and 
prisons if we are the most free country in the world?" Did you know America 
has the most jails of any country in the world? Did you know that other 
than China, California has more prisons than any other country in the world?

Did you also know that more than 40 percent of our entire prison population 
are non-violent drug offenders? If you want to solve the prison 
overpopulation issue, why not stop incarcerating those who have committed 
no crime against another human being, but simply want to get high. I know 
in Amherst this sounds ridiculous; after all as soon as you come into the 
county you are made aware of a big billboard telling you that you're 
entering a "drug-free community." This is ridiculous. Why do we put people 
in jail for some drugs, yet doctors push others on us no matter what our 
age or condition? If you want to solve the jail/prison population problem, 
let's look at our neighbors to the north, as well as at Europe. Simple 
marijuana possession should never result in jail time, no matter how much 
or how often. Drug possession should be dealt with using rehabilitation 
with job training if needed, or else simply give the offender community 
service. Make them clean up all the trash dumped along U.S. 29 rather than 
putting them in already overcrowded jails and turning them into bitter, 
angry convicts.


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