The Norman Transcript

August 25, 2013

State prisons could do without burden of so many drug offenders

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

I don’t think I will never “get it.” Doing what we have always done expecting different results defines insanity. For instance, the Norman Transcript recently reported that the new Cleveland County Detention Center is full, housing five hundred prisoners.

The primary reason given was a backlog of prisoners awaiting transfer to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. According to DOC, the reception center at Lexington is full as are DOC facilities around the state and they cannot accept any additional inmates.

There are many explanations available, but one seems an appropriate illustration. For decades, the United States has waged a “war on drugs.” Congress authorized an all-out attack on drug trafficking. Tough on crime Oklahoma legislators enacted dozens of laws to punish the user/addicts and the dealers who supply them.

We have worked hard to ensure harsh sentences on users and suppliers and providing for escalating sentence lengths for repeat offenses, up to and including life in prison.

For their part, Oklahoma law enforcement agencies are very efficient in rounding up offenders for our district attorneys to prosecute and send to prison.

We consistently rank in the top five states in per-capita incarceration of offenders. We are consistently in the top three of the incarceration of women per capita. It is no wonder that Oklahoma prisons are full.

And yet, drug abuse and distribution continue to expand and flourish. Oklahoma is recognized as the national crossroads of drug trafficking in the United States.

Estimates are the more drugs pass through Oklahoma than any other state in the union. It is rumored that growing and harvesting marijuana is the major cash crop in several counties.

However, the research and findings are clear — we will not incarcerate our way to victory in this war on drugs.

Borrowing from basic economic theory, where there is no demand, there is no need for a supply. We’ve proven that interdicting the supply does not work.

Perhaps we might be more successful in reducing the demand if we re-institute anti-drug education beginning in our schools, starting in kindergarten.

Perhaps we might be more successful by mandating intensive inpatient treatment for drug abusers, including long term after-care. Perhaps we should invest more money to educating children and treating the addicted. Of course, this is my opinion, I could be wrong.