Pubdate: Mon, 24 Dec 2007
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2007 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Robert Sharpe


Little Effect Seen

Regarding Lynne K. Varner's column, "Common sense replaces hysteria 
with high court's cocaine rulings," Opinion, Dec. 18:

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 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 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. 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, Washington, D.C.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom