Pubdate: Sat, 17 Aug 2013
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Los Angeles Times
Author: Robert Sharpe


Re "Rethinking drug sentences," Editorial, Aug. 13

Federal sentencing reform is long overdue. 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 cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, New York chose the 
zero-tolerance approach. Meanwhile, in Washington, Mayor Marion Barry 
was smoking crack and America's capital had the highest per capita 
murder rate in the country.

Crack use declined in both cities simultaneously. Research shows the 
decline was not due to the passage of federal mandatory minimum 
sentencing laws. Simply put, the younger generation realized what 
crack was doing to their older peers.

This is not to say nothing can be done about hard drugs. 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

Arlington, Va.

The writer is a policy analyst at Common Sense for Drug Policy.
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