Pubdate: Tue, 03 Oct 2006
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


Regarding Amanda St. Amand's column "Drug court gives second chance 
to young addict" (Sept. 28): St. Clair County's drug court is a step 
in the right direction, but an arrest should not be a 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 earned the 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 

The threat of prison upon which coerced treatment relies can 
backfire. Prison transmits violent habits, rather than reduces them. 
If every alcoholic were thrown in jail and given a criminal record, 
how many lives would be destroyed? How many tax dollars would be 
wasted turning potentially productive members of society into criminals?

Robert Sharpe

Washington, D.C.

Policy Analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy 
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