Pubdate: Fri, 05 Dec 2008
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2008 Charleston Daily Mail
Author: Robert Sharpe


West Virginia is not the only state grappling with overcrowded
prisons. Throughout the nation, states facing budget shortfalls are
pursuing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.
A study conducted by the RAND Corporation found that every additional
dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.48 in
societal costs. There is far more at stake than tax dollars.

The drug war is not the promoter of family values that some would have
us believe. Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure,
joblessness, addiction and delinquency. Not only do the children lose
out, but society as a whole does, too. Incarcerating non-violent drug
offenders alongside hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing
them with a taxpayer-funded education in anti-social behavior.

Turning drug users into unemployable ex-cons is a senseless waste of
tax dollars. It's time to declare peace in the failed drug war and
begin treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public
health problem it is. Destroying the futures and families of citizens
who make unhealthy choices doesn't benefit anyone. Drug abuse is bad,
but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe

Arlington, Va.

Sharpe is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.
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