Pubdate: Mon, 29 Oct 2007
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2007 The Boston Herald, Inc
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding David W. White's thoughtful column ("Unintended casualties 
aplenty in drug war," Oct. 24), mandatory minimum prison sentences 
have done little other than give the land of the free the highest 
incarceration rate in the world. The deterrent value of zero 
tolerance is grossly overrated.

During the crack epidemic of the 1980s, New York City chose zero 
tolerance, opting to incarcerate as many offenders as possible. 
Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry was smoking crack and 
America's capital had the nation's highest per capita murder rate. 
Yet crack use declined in both cities simultaneously.

The decline was not due to a slick anti-drug advertising campaign or 
the passage of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Simply put, the 
younger generation saw first-hand what crack was doing to their older 
siblings and decided for themselves that crack was bad news.

This is not to say nothing can be done about hard drugs like crack or 
methamphetamine, the latest headline grabber. Diverting resources 
away from prisons and into cost-effective treatment would save both 
tax dollars and lives.

- - Robert Sharpe, Policy Analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington, D.C.
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