Education, not jail, can curtail drugsYou are to be...

the Forum

February 03, 1993

Education, not jail, can curtail drugs

You are to be commended for finally admitting that we should try decriminalization of drugs in order to stop the violence on the streets of Baltimore, and indeed, all of America (editorial, Jan 18).

Many of The Baltimore Sun's writers have suggested the same thing through the past several years, and it took a lot of courage for the editors to join them.

Last year Maryland's drug czar, Dr. Neil Solomon, stated that we should never decriminalize until we've pursued all other avenues. Well, haven't we already, with mandatory sentences, overflowing jails, forfeiture of property and "boot camps"?

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's recommendation of education rather than incarceration to curtail drug use seems like a viable alternative.

We didn't have to make criminals of tobacco users to get many of those people to stop smoking. Massive education campaigns brought about this decrease, and it was a lot cheaper than putting people in jail.

Just recently President Clinton was heard to say that we shouldn't refrain from trying something new just because it hasn't been tried before . . .

We should try it, then discard it if it doesn't work. We've tried everything else in this futile drug war, so let's try decriminalization. It can't be any worse than what we already have on the streets of America.

P. Pugh

White Marsh

The uninsured

We keep hearing that there are anywhere from 34 to 36 million people in this country of ours who do not have health insurance.

According to the 1990 census, we now have a population of 250 million people.

This means that approximately 215 million of us do have some form of health insurance.

Many of these people who do not have health insurance are employed, either on a part-time or full-time basis.

They are self-supporting, but they don't have enough income to be able to afford the high cost of health insurance.

Many others in this group have lost their jobs within the past year or so and cannot afford to pay their health insurance premiums.

Let's face it; there are many people who don't carry health insurance because they don't want it, even though they can afford it.

What can we do to try to remedy this situation?

We already have in place the Medicaid program. The guidelines for the inclusion in this program need to be broadened. This would cover many of these uninsured people.

Another possibility is to provide certificates (vouchers) for the poor to buy insurance.

Another possibility is to provide individual tax deductions for those with middle incomes to buy insurance.

All of this, plus other possibilities, will have to be mandated by our incoming Congress.

Unfortunately, this will require increasing funding, as well as increased taxes.

At this time, it appears that solutions can be found to include most, if not all, of these uninsured citizens under the health care umbrella.

This could be done without resulting in a government-controlled national health insurance plan for this country, which wouldn't work very well here anyway.

!R. M. McLaughlin, M.D.

Arnold

Peace 'crime'

I witnessed Liz McAlister Berrigan's sentencing Jan. 22.

Judge James Dudley, of the Ellicott City District Court, sentenced her to spend 60 weekends in jail for having trespassed in protest of the nuclear missile research at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

The judge talked about her long "criminal" record. I was listening and wanted to cry in shame.

I thought of this wonderful and warm woman, of the work she does with the members of Jonah House in helping support a poor community.

I thought about her countless actions as a witness for peace, her years in jail as a witness of conscience and about the example of decency and goodness she has imparted to her three wonderful children.

I thought of her quiet and yet forceful presence at the liturgy services at Jonah House and the sustenance she offers to those of us in spiritual need. I thought of how so many people will suffer for being deprived of her encouragement.

I also felt connected to her simple, dignified statement in court in which she linked the violence in our streets with the example given by violent militaristic choices which disregard human values.

I remember how 2,500 years ago the classical Greeks came to respect the moral laws, laws of conscience, above human laws. Antigone tells Creon in Sophocles' tragedy: "There are laws, O King, which are above the human ones, and those are the eternal and everlasting laws of the Gods."

I finally remembered how our forefathers undertook the perilous journey to these shores rather than submit to laws contrary to their religious beliefs and how we are the inheritors of their moral legacy of choice of conscience.

I thought of all of these things and my heart felt stricken that justice should be applied in such a narrow, and limited manner -- today -- in this country I love.

Nuvi Sherlock

Baltimore

Alexander the Gay

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