The common theme among recipients of mandatory minimum prison sentences described in George F. Will’s Dec. 26 op-ed column, “Sledgehammer justice,” is consensual drug transactions between buyers and sellers. The war on some drugs has had a profound impact on this country. The “land of the free” now has the highest incarceration rate in the world. At a cost of more than $30,000 per inmate annually, this is big government at its worst.

Prisons transmit violent habits rather than reduce them. Most nonviolent drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal job prospects because of their criminal records. Turning nonviolent drug offenders into hardened criminals is a senseless waste of tax dollars. It’s time to declare peace in the failed drug war and begin treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health problem it is. 

Robert Sharpe, Washington

The writer is a policy analyst at Common Sense for Drug Policy.