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Drug court is a better option

Editor,

Thank you to the Valley Journal for the informative article “Lake County Drug Court Honors First Graduate” on May 23.

Today I read a letter by Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton about his visit to the state prison in Deer Lodge. It is a thought provoking article. He points out that it is expensive to house people who make awful choices in prisons. Secretary Stapleton states that many of the people who are in prison are there because of substance abuse, and there are many job vacancies for correctional officers and addiction counselors.

Judge Jim Manley spoke to the Leadership Flathead Reservation group a few months ago, explaining the Drug Court project and its goals. He recommended reading the book “Chasing the Scream” by Johann Hari, which I did. Wow! Very eye-opening. The issues are complicated. And the drug problems are getting worse, not better, which puts more pressure on our prison system, which is largely funded by taxes.

The fact remains that if I were to use drugs, and become addicted, it is unlikely that I would go to prison, or even be arrested. That’s because I am white and privileged. I have a nice house and retirement savings. I don’t have to steal to get drugs and support a habit like that.

So who is in our prisons, serving time for drug related crimes? Minorities and people without many financial resources.

The drug war supports and is fueled by organized crime. And average people are paying the bill, through lost lives and higher tax bills.

It is not working to simply increase prison capacity. We need to address the roots of the problems as a community.

The Drug Court is a wonderful first step. Thanks to all of the dedicated public servants who have stepped up, volunteered their time and started this new Drug Court solution.

Judy Preston
Polson

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