Pubdate: Mon, 26 Mar 2007
Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)
Copyright: 2007 News-Journal Corporation
Note: gives priority to local writers
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


Re "Cracked justice: Absurd, racist disparities in drug sentencing," 
editorial, March 5:

As policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy, I know that 
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 1980s, 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 older 
siblings and decided for itself 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 from prisons and 
into cost-effective treatment would save both tax dollars and lives.

Robert Sharpe

Arlington, Va.
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