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Letter: Prison population boom needs to be addressed

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The Deseret News Sunday editorial and related feature article on the prison population in the U.S. was exactly right on target ("Breaking the cycle" and "' 'Are there no prisons?' " Dec. 2).

Our war on drugs has failed because it was based upon the use of the justice system. We need to use social services and related entities to deal with substance abuse. Prisons don't and won't help in a substantive way. Until we alter demand for drugs, no amount of money, police or DEA agents will slow the flow of narcotics.

We should be ashamed to have 744 people incarcerated per 100,000, compared to 510 in Cuba, 505 in Russia, 154 in U.K. and 83 in Germany. There are those who will need to go to prison when others' lives are endangered by their use of drugs. But surely we don't want to train our young people in prison. Let's help them outside of the justice system.

I was appointed by Governor Calvin Rampton to serve on the Board of Corrections of Utah for a five-year term in the late 1960s. We approved the first work release program despite the unfounded fears of much of the public. In like way we need innovative solutions for substance abuse, not more prison terms.

Scott Bergeson

Provo

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