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Consider the following argument: There are many arguments for the elimination or modification of current U. S. drug laws, but one of the most persuasive involves what negative effects drug laws are having on society in comparison with the effects of the drugs themselves. In the past ten years, most forms of drug use have dropped significantly, especially among teens. Despite this, non-violent drug offenders accounted for 21.1 percent of the federal prison population. First time drug offenders serve, on average, a sentence three months longer than kidnappers, nine months longer than burglars, and thirty-three months longer than sex abusers. In 1992, the average cost of keeping an inmate in either state or federal prison was about $20,000 per prisoner per year. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 455 prisoners per 100,000 population. It is maintaining these prisoners at great expense in an environment where they are unlikely to develop a socially constructive attitude. Perhaps it is time that we reconsider our attitudes toward those who choose to use drugs; failure to do so may cost society even more than it already has.
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