Sunday, August 20, 2006

Legalize drugs -- cut crime

This is a surprising good op-ed by Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, not normally a friend of the reform movement since their livelihood depends on a continutation of the problems of drug abuse. So I'm going to ignore the early somewhat misleading stats that fail to address the role of alchohol abuse in violent crime.

Later in the piece she suggests we treat the addict and cut the crime rate. The money quotes:
In a Delaware work-release research study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, those who participated in prison-based treatment -- followed by ongoing post-release care -- were seven times more likely to be drug-free and three times more likely to be arrest-free after three years than those who received no treatment. Other studies report similar findings. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that substance-abuse treatment cuts drug abuse in half and reduces criminal activity by as much as 80 percent. [...]

Some courts and communities have also resisted offering comprehensive treatment because of fears of high costs. But recent studies show it is actually less expensive for communities to treat drug-abusing offenders than to let them sit in jail or prison. It is estimated that every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of $4 to $7 in reduced drug-related crimes. Savings for some outpatient programs can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.
It's a small step to take that logic further and see the savings if we could eliminate the law enforcement costs of prohibition and pour all that money into education and treatment.


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