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Drug criminals are liable for their crimes, not society

Recent opinion columns have postulated that growth in the prison population is a moral failure of society, and the expansion of drug rehabilitation programs should be paramount. But a moral failure of whom? And doesn't New York State have extensive drug rehabilitation programs?

The state spends an exorbitant amount of money on rehabilitation, and the moral failure lies not with society but the individual.

That is like calling the shooting of two Buffalo police officers or the murder of a nun a "mistake," thus taking the responsibility out of the hands of the offender. It is much simpler to place the onus on the system or society rather than the moral breakdown of individuals who generally have lengthy criminal records.

Attempts by defenders to cite criminal justice statistics are misguided. For example, there are not 2.2 million people incarcerated in state and federal prison, but in jails and prisons, which still relates to less than 1 percent of the population.

Furthermore, the majority of felons are not incarcerated solely for drug crimes, but for drug-related crimes or co-occurring crimes.

Suggestions for the new Congress include:

* Change the way the criminal thinks. If you give the great majority of inmates a college education, he or she still thinks like a criminal.

* Prison expansion must continue as our population increases and increased use of incarceration will be needed.

* People are already provided a free education through the 12th grade and the onus is on the individual to continue in higher education. With the billions of dollars spent on education, we should be observing many changes in the individual, right?

It is hardly a moral failure to incarcerate those who deserve to be incarcerated, especially drug felons. Drug crimes and drug-related crimes are not victimless crimes but crimes that snowball in loss of life and property, physical and emotional damage.

New York State lauds a 46 percent drop in crime due to crime control policies, which is hardly the case. This is due to restructuring of sentencing, decriminalization, and the restructuring of parole; crime is still the same with the responsibility removed from the hands of the criminal.

Think about the number of murders, rapes, robberies, etc., that occurred in Buffalo and Niagara Falls last year and why this is happening. Buffalo, in conjunction with decreased police resources, is a prime example of failed Pataki administration crime control policy Band-Aids that displaces crime until the drug task force goes away.

The war on drugs is not the failure of society, but the failure of the individual who refuses to use the skills learned in rehabilitative programming. Let us now start to think about crime as the moral failures of the individual.

William Morgan is a doctoral student at Capella University and professor of criminology at local colleges and universities.

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