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Federal drug policy perpetuates problems

The Nevada County Drug Court is definitely a step in the right direction, but an arrest should not be a necessary prerequisite for drug treatment. Fear of criminal sanctions compels many problem drug users to suffer in silence. Would alcoholics seek help for their illness if doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Likewise, would putting every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars and saddling them with criminal records prove cost-effective?



The United States recently earned the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world, with drug offenses accounting for the majority of federal incarcerations.




This is big government at its worst. At an average cost of $25,071 per inmate annually, maintaining the world’s largest prison system can hardly be considered fiscally conservative.

The threat of prison that coerced treatment relies upon can backfire when it’s actually put to use. Prisons transmit violent habits and values rather than reduce them. Most nonviolent drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal job prospects due to criminal records. Turning recreational drug users into unemployable ex-cons is a senseless waste of tax dollars.

At present there is a glaring double standard in place. Alcohol and tobacco are by far the deadliest recreational drugs, yet the government does not go out of its way to destroy the lives of drinkers and smokers. Imagine if every alcoholic were thrown in jail and given a permanent criminal record. How many lives would be destroyed? How many families torn apart? How many tax dollars would be wasted turning potentially productive members of society into hardened criminals?

Robert Sharpe,

Program Officer

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C.


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