Pubdate: Sat, 1 Dec 2007
Source: Greensboro News & Record (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Greensboro News & Record, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe


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 tough drug laws is overrated. During the crack
epidemic of the 1980s, New York City chose the zero-tolerance
approach, opting to arrest and prosecute as many offenders as possible.

Meanwhile, Washington Mayor Marion Barry was smoking crack and
America's capital had the highest per-capita murder rate in the
country. 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 firsthand what crack was doing to 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. Access to
substance-abuse treatment is critical. Diverting resources away from
prisons and into cost-effective treatment would save both tax dollars
and lives. The following U.S. Department of Justice research brief
confirms my claims regarding the spontaneous decline of crack cocaine:

Robert Sharpe


The writer is policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy. 
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