For the first time since the 1930s, Gallup has found that neither economic issues nor war tops its poll of public concerns. The number-one issue on America’s mind is drugs.

That’s not surprising. Colombia has exploded into a full-scale drug war. Crack peddlers, like an indestructible breed of cockroach, infest American streets. Prisons overflow with drug offenders.

On every front are urgent calls to confront the crisis. The problem is, most of the proposed solutions don’t deal with the root disease but only with the symptoms, and with these, not very effectively.

What happened in Florida is illustrative. Projections show that by year’s end, Florida will have 60,000 more convicted offenders than prison beds; 60 to 70 percent have drug histories.

Justice Fellowship worked with state leaders to develop urgently needed legislation that focused primarily on alternatives for nonviolent offenders and treatment centers for addicts. All was going well—until one senator uttered the fatal word: the drug package was “soft.” His rhetoric carried the day; the legislature voted $118 million for new prisons, and a paltry $700,000 for in-prison drug-treatment programs.

Then, just a few weeks later, a study of 254 Florida crack addicts showed just how futile that prison building boom will be.

In one year, these youngsters were responsible for 223,000 crimes—an average of 880 crimes per addict per year! The threat of prison was no deterrent; actually going to prison only stopped them from crime temporarily. There was nothing to break the cycle of addiction.

What is happening at the federal level is only slightly more encouraging. To his credit, President Bush’s $7.9 billion antidrug plan included $925 million for drug treatment. But at the heart ...

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