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Prison Drug Treatment Would Reverse Overcrowding and Reduce Crime, Recidivism, Budget

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Saturday, October 16, 2010


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Deficit Commission Recommendations Should Heed Savings by Treatment and Conyers' Focus

By Robert Weiner and Daphne Baille

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2.3 million Americans are in prison today--number one in the world. That's up from 500,000 in 1980 or 4 times more. Seven million Americans are now in the criminal justice system--incarcerated, on probation or on parole--also the most in the world. Imprisonment is one of the most expensive items of state and local budgets. The cost of incarceration in the U.S. is estimated at over $60 billion dollars a year.

Most of the increases are due to the prosecution of drug abusers starting in the 80s. Drugs were rampant during that time period; in 1980, 14% of Americans abused illegal drugs monthly. That number is now down to 8%, but a whopping 68% of arrestees test positive for illegal drugs, according to Justice Department surveys of 30 cities. The nexus of drugs and crime is undeniable.

There is a solution other than putting drug abusers behind bars--drug treatment. Despite the fact that 68% of arrestees test positive for drugs, only 14% of prisoners receive treatment.

Birmingham, Alabama was able to stop building a new prison when they instituted an arrestees' drug treatment program 15 years ago.

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Robert Weiner, NATIONAL PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND ISSUES STRATEGIST Bob Weiner, a national issues and public affairs strategist, has been spokesman for and directed the public affairs offices of White House Drug Czar and Four Star General Barry (more...)

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