Pubdate: Mon, 3 Dec 2007
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2007 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Robert Sharpe


Re: "The Drug, Not Its Form - Time for Congress to fix cocaine-crack 
disparity," Wednesday Editorials.

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 grossly overrated.

During the crack epidemic of the '80s, New York City chose the
zero-tolerance approach, opting to arrest and prosecute as many
offenders as possible. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., 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

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 their older
siblings and decided 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.

Robert Sharpe, policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy,