- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I read with interest the story concerning the huge proportion of nonviolent offenders who crowd our jails (“Toward reform of criminal justice,” Nation, Citizen Journalism, Tuesday). America has 5 percent of the world’s population but has 25 percent of the world’s reported prisoners. One in eight black males in their 20s is incarcerated. The number of incarcerated drug users has increased by 1,200 percent during the last 30 years. All this gives lie to the notion that our justice system is effective.

My drug-addicted brother, who has never hurt or threatened anyone, has been in and out of jail during the past dozen years. His offenses include shoplifting, trespassing and other things that drug addicts do. He has been jailed repeatedly for violating parole, mostly because of not seeing his probation officer while on drug binges. He has served more time in jail than have most convicted violent offenders.

I am not for coddling criminals, but the present methods of dealing with nonviolent offenders are not working. The purpose of jail should be primarily to protect the public from criminals who have demonstrated that they are a danger to society. Others should get treatment and counseling. That is more cost-effective than discarding otherwise redeemable people at the taxpayer’s expense.

WILLIAM R. ALFORD

Merrifield, Va.

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