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Priest rejects PM's claim on war against drug abuse

Jesuit Social Services' Director Fr Peter Norden has criticised Prime Minister John Howard's recent claim "that we are winning the war against the drug epidemic".

Fr Norden was officiating yesterday at a Drug Awareness Week memorial service in Victoria. 359 crosses were laid out alonside Geelong's City Hall to recall the tragic loss of 359 lives from drug overdoses in Victoria during the past 12 months.

"Simply take a look at the 359 crosses laid out before you and you will realize that the methods of this war are resulting in far too many casualties", he said.

He also criticised the use of imprisonment as an easy answer to the drug epidemic.

"The last ten years have seen a 32% increase in the national adult imprisonment rate, from 112 to 148 prisoners per 100,000 of the population, as the national prison population has increased from 14,305 to 21, 714 since 1990." he said. "This has occurred without a significant increase in serious crime across the country, in fact, in Victoria the serious crime rate has diminished!"

Jesuit Social Services