Burt Prelutsky

I keep reading that prisons are over-crowded. Things have gotten so bad in some places that a certain number of felons are periodically released. Bureaucrats are always quick to assure us that these are non-violent criminals. But I don't buy it. Thanks to plea bargains, hardly anybody is convicted and doing time for the actual crime or crimes he committed.

Frankly, I must confess I'm surprised that the jails all have their No Vacancy signs lit up. After all, when a Sandy Berger gets off with the equivalent of community service for stealing and shredding classified documents, O.J. Simpson is free to hone his golf game in Florida, and Robert Blake is home watching his video of "In Cold Blood," one could easily get the idea that it's impossible to convict anyone of anything these days.

Of course it's no surprise that celebrities get to walk around with a Get Out of Jail Free card in their wallet. Here in California, a drunken motorist, so long as he was a movie star, could mow down a troop of Girl Scouts and wind up with nothing more than a parking ticket. It's called DWI, driving while influential.

If I were running the criminal justice system in America, I would make some major changes. Right off the bat, I would de-criminalize drug use. I don't use them, but I simply don't see any advantage in keeping drugs illegal. That only serves to make them seem romantic and dangerous to young people and other dunderheads. It also keeps them far more expensive than they would otherwise be. I mean, why should I care if someone uses cocaine or heroin? So long as the junk is cheap enough so that users don't have to resort to criminal activity to finance their habit, how is it my business if other people choose to mess up their brains?

I mean, if you're serious about preventing drug use, it seems to me that you would forget about jailing the dealers, who, after all, are merely meeting a demand. This is, after all, a capitalist society. Instead of going after the sellers, go after the buyers. I say, jail all the addicts and throw away the key. Too harsh? Fine, but then you're not talking about an all-out war. Instead, you're talking about what the war on drugs really is; namely, a quagmire.

How is it my business what people smoke, snort or inject into themselves?However, if they cause mischief while stoned out of their skulls, I'd treat them as criminals, not victims. They don't get to blame it on the drug. When I'm in charge, they go to the slammer, not rehab.