A Drug Law Overhaul

New York Times, 30 Oct. 2000

To the Editor:

As you note in "A Better Approach to Drug Offenders" (editorial, Oct. 26), treatment is more effective and cheaper than incarceration. But California's Proposition 36, like a proposal in New York to establish a new apparatus of "drug courts," is the wrong approach.

As you point out, if offenders fail the drug court treatment, they are then faced with felony criminal charges. What changed? Drug users are repeatedly arrested. Why on one occasion do they deserve treatment, and on another occasion they deserve imprisonment?

Drug users who want treatment should receive it. The mass incarceration of drug users in New York and California must be ended, but drug courts are not the answer. Decriminalization of drug possession is the answer.

Robert L. Cohen, M.D.

New York, Oct. 26, 2000

The writer is a former director of medical services on Rikers Island for Montefiore Hospital.

© 2000, New York Times