Regarding Leonard Pitts’ July 31 column, support for the drug war would end overnight if whites were incarcerated for drug offenses at the same rate as minorities. Racially disproportionate incarceration rates are not the only cause for alarm. Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness, addiction and delinquency. Incarcerating non-violent drug offenders with hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing them with a taxpayer-funded education in anti-social behavior.
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. Thanks to public education efforts, legal tobacco use has steadily declined, without any need to criminalize smokers. Mandatory minimum prison sentences, civil asset forfeiture, random drug testing and racial profiling are not the most cost-effective means of discouraging unhealthy choices.
Statistics on race and prison:
(Sharpe is a policy analyst with Common Sense for Drug Policy.)