You guys can pat yourselves on the back all you want, but that won't change the economic facts. The United States currently houses more prisoners per capita than any other country in the history of the world. This is primarily because of mandatory minumums (which are being dumped on the advice of judges, et. al.) and nonviolent crimes like smoking pot (more than 700M currently). Neither of these types of imprisonments have been demonstrated to be effective. In fact, in the case of nonviolent crimes, often prison time actually makes for a violent person because of what he learns while he's in prison. Let's see now, would you rather live next door to an ex-con or someone who tokes on a joint and settles in with some cookies to watch tv? McPrison is over just like telecom. You wanna make money in stocks.....move on then.
It isn't a question of "patting ourselves on the back". I would prefer living next to neither of the choices you are offering. This is a question of societal philosophy: either legalize (all) drugs or keep going the way we are. I would agree to legalizing drugs if those on drugs receive NO financial benefits from society - if they are simply allowed to practice their habits and die in the process with no medical help whatsoever. However, the "liberals" would never accept this and would demand that these "unfortunate people" receive medical help for their habit. If drugs are no problem, why should they need medical help at all? I have come to believe that our society would suffer much more by legalizing drugs than by staying the course we are now on. If you could really imagine where legalizing drugs would lead this country, you would not be such a passionate proponent. Either way, prisons will be with us until the human species is "perfect". Would you hazard a guess as to how far in the future this will be?