Pubdate: Sun, 21 Jan 2007
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding the Opinion commentary by Vicki Lopez Lukis, "Helping 
ex-inmates the smart thing to do" (Jan. 7): Florida 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.

Not only do the children lose out, but society as a whole does, too. 
Incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders alongside hardened criminals 
is the equivalent of providing them with a taxpayer-financed 
education in antisocial behavior. Turning drug users into 
unemployable ex-cons is a senseless waste of tax money.

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

Arlington, Va.

Policy Analyst at Common Sense for Drug Policy in Washington, D.C.
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