The White House said yesterday that it will push for treatment, rather than incarceration, of people arrested for drug-related crimes as it announced the nomination of Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske to oversee the nation's effort to control illegal drugs.
This renewed emphasis on treatment is long overdue. The evidence is clear that prohibition and incarceration alone do not work. In fact, many of our current drug policies make matters worse. Not only have we reached a prison crisis due to mandatory minimum sentences and over use of incarceration for drug offenses, but some of these policies actually result in drug users committing crimes like theft, burglary, and drug dealing in order to support their addiction.
Perhaps the "silver lining" in the failing economy is that elected officials will have to reexamine their spending on prisons and will get busy reforming their sentencing policies.
But the prospects are not good. NAMI just announced that the U.S. has a grade of D in terms of providing mental health services, which is an underlying problem for many drug users. States like Idaho are controlled by ideological diehards, thus making sentencing reform a remote possibility.