Pubdate: Fri, 21 May 2010
Source: Star-Banner, The (Ocala, FL)
Copyright: 2010 The Star-Banner
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding the editorial, "The mandatory minimum crisis" (May 14),
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 zero tolerance is grossly overrated. During the
crack epidemic of the 1980's, 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 the passage of federal 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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