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A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Drug Education II BY BARRY KRISBERG, PH.D. A more honest assessment of America’s drug crisis must confront fundamental social and cultural facts: FACT #1: While recreational drug use is declining, there has been no decline in chronic cocaine use. FACT #2: There has been an alarming growth in the underclass. Nearly twenty-five percent of America’s children are reared in poverty. School dropout rates and unemployment among African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are at epidemic levels. Urban neighborhoods are increasingly concentrations of extremely disadvantaged young women and their children, who possess little hope for a better life. FACT #3: The economic status of poor Americans has deteriorated in the last decade. Government programs to assist our most vulnerable families and children have been severely limited. FACT #4: For at least the last two decades, the mass culture has glorified the values of ostentatious displays of wealth, quick money deals on Wall Street and shortrun hedonism. How else can we explain marketing of $100 Michael Jordan basketball shoes to adolescents, the pervasiveness of sex and violence in the mass media or multi-million dollar advertising campaigns that promote cosmetics with names like Opium, Ecstasy or Obsession? Some might say America has created a culture of greed that encourages and justifies criminal conduct among the rich and powerful and disadvantaged alike. These are major societal forces that will not be easily turned around. However, we avoid acknowledging their contributions to the drug problem at our children’s peril. It has been fashionable within the Beltway to proclaim that “nothing works” and that government programs do more harm than good. As with Bennett’s drug war, the research and hard evidence does not support this view. An extraordinary book by Lisbeth Schorr, Within Our Reach, documents the proven programs that can save many of our young from destructive and demeaning lives. Expanding family planning, nutrition and health care for the poor would be a valuable start. National Headstart programs have shown their capacity to divert high risk youngsters from lives of crime. The Homebuilders program in Seattle has demonstrated that troubled families can be buttressed and reunited to avert costly out-of-home placements. The “I Have a Dream” Foundation combines financial incentives and mentoring by concerned adults to turn potential dropouts into college-bound success stories. There are several other documented programs to prevent drug abuse through educational efforts and to effectively treat addicted individuals. Implementing these successful programs will require a reallocation of funds from punishment-oriented solutions. These are not politically popular ideas in an era dominated by angry “get tough” rhetoric, political scare reordering federal spending priorities. Savvy political handlers and media specialists may well caution their candidates to avoid such sensitive topics. If their advice is followed, then the drug scourge will not end America’s drug crisis will intensify and become even more violent in the future. A question remains: what should be done about illegal drug users and dealers? A quarter century ago, the urged the country to pursue public health and medical solutions for drug addicts. The Council also urged stiff prison sentences for large-scale drug racketeers. For the problems facing us today, the NCCD approach remains of great practical value. Prison cells should be reserved for the drug dealers who resort to violence and those organizing the major narcotics distribution systems. Incarceration is an appropriate response to drug money launderers and the “jet set” drug importers. Small time street dealers can be punished using fines and forfeitures of illicitly gained profits. The majority of drug offenders should be required to perform unpaid community service work or have their liberty restricted by home incarceration programs. Treatment should be available to all those willing to seek cures for their addiction. The 25-year old NCCD policy statement on drug offenders must be joined with a major national effort to rescue the growing number of children who are falling into the underclass. There must be a long-range commitment to expanding educational and treatment resources to deal with America’s serious drug and alcohol addiction problem. There must be an equally strong resolve to wage a strong attack on poverty and its related evils. Americans must also come to grips with the serious implications of our culture of greed and find the way back to a more generous and communal national spirit. In part, this is the “kinder and gentler” America also promised by President Bush’s inaugural address. But, this rational, humane and optimistic vision of America’s future is threatened by the present directions of the national drug war. American Income Life Insurance Company EXECUTIVE acmes: P.O. BOX 206, WACO. TEXAS 71703, $1 7-7724060 BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29