As I have written before, studies show the criminalization of almost everything, particularly drug use, is costing states billions of dollars. The prison population is swelling as a result of mandatory sentencing laws and some states are shipping inmates to privately run prisons. Costs are so high that many states are being forced to treat drug abuse as a health issue, which it is, with much better results.

Tim Lynch, director of the criminal justice project for the libertarian Cato Institute, called the numbers “scandalous” and said states have resorted to “tinkering” to solve prison overcrowding.

“I think these numbers demonstrate that we’ve lost our way,” Lynch said. “We’ve lost our way when our laws require such a massive scale of incarceration.”

Lynch and others said the drug war is destroying American inner cities almost as much as the drug trade. “When you lock up a bank robber, a child molester or a mugger, you’re removing a career offender from the street.

“When you lock up a drug dealer, he is immediately replaced,” Lynch said. “We tried this with alcohol during Prohibition and it didn’t work. We’re not reaching the same conclusion with the drug war. It’s slowly sinking in, but it will take politicians some time to turn this around.”

Just like prohibition, the ‘war on drugs’ is accomplishing nothing beyond looting the treasury. Until we elect legislators that read statistics and do not succumb to the prison lobbyists, our own state, Oregon, spending the highest percentage of the general fund, will continue down a very impractical path.

(hat tip/Nella)