Deficit Commission Should Heed Savings
WASHINGTON and CHICAGO, Oct. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Prison drug treatment would reduce overcrowding, crime, and budgets, say Robert Weiner, ex-White House Drug Spokesman, and Chicago expert Daphne Baille, communications director for Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).
In a top-of-page featured oped column in today's Chicago Sun-Times, Weiner and Baille point out, "2.3 million Americans are in prison—number one in the world. That's up 4-1/2 times from 500,000 in 1980. The annual U.S. incarceration cost is over $60 billion dollars."
"Most of the increases are due to prosecution of drug abusers starting in the 80s. A whopping 68% of arrestees test positive for illegal drugs, according to Justice Department surveys of 30 cities."
They propose "a solution other than drug abusers behind bars—treatment. Despite 68% of arrestees testing positive for drugs, only 14% of prisoners receive treatment."
"Birmingham, Alabama was able to halt building a new prison when they instituted an arrestees' drug treatment program 15 years ago."
"When we asked the warden's office at the Attica (New York) prison if they had a drug treatment program, the staff told us, 'We're not a drug prison.' The problem is, every prison needs to be a 'drug' prison which provides treatment."
They quote Sentencing Project Director Marc Mauer, who called the prison-drugs recidivism cycle "a 25-year quagmire." Weiner and Baille point to Sheridan Correctional Center near Chicago, where prisoners who completed treatment after release were 85% less likely to return to prison.
"We pay $25,000 a year to incarcerate someone; treatment costs a few thousand for an entire year."
"The President's Deficit Commission will recommend how to lower the deficit after the elections. They should heed House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers' (D-Detroit) concern that there is more attention to law enforcement than treatment of the drug problem.
They contend, "Congress should double the $5 billion budgeted for treatment and prevention in and out of prison. According to UCLA, for every treatment dollar, taxpayers save $7 in reduced crime and costs. This $5 billion would translate to $35 billion savings for American taxpayers."
They conclude, "Did you hear that, Deficit Commission?"
Link: http://www.weinerpublic.com/20101016.doc (full article) or http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/2807790,CST-EDT-open16a.article (published)
Contact: Bob Weiner/Gavriel Swerling 301-283-0821 or 202-306-1200
SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates