Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 04, 2005

Put drunken drivers right into treatment

Finding out that Maryland ranks among the worst states in the nation when it comes to alcohol-related road fatalities should be a call to action for our lawmakers and governor.

The Sun's article "Danger on state roads" (Nov. 29) described the sorry state of our state and the challenge of a strong, life-saving response.

But really tough legislation would do more than levy stronger penalties against drunken drivers.

It would help prevent drunken driving with a combination of deterrents for people to ever drink and drive and actions to prevent repeat offenders.

Because of accidents on the highway and elsewhere, as well as alcohol-fueled violence, drunken drivers account for 40 percent to 60 percent of all admissions to hospital trauma centers.

Many will leave the hospital and drink and drive again.

A powerful and proven preventive measure is the initiation of alcohol treatment while they are still in the hospital.

The door to such intervention was opened in 2002, when Maryland joined a handful of other states in removing arcane insurance-related barriers to such intervention. Now Maryland needs to join leaders such as Connecticut in preventing repeat offenders by requiring acute care hospitals to identify and assist injury patients with drug and alcohol problems.

This intervention would not replace criminal sanctions or additional court-ordered treatment; it is, however, a proven "get tough" measure that would save lives.

Dr. Jack Henningfield Dr. Patricia Santora Baltimore

The writers are directors of the Innovators Combating Substance Abuse Awards Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Fumigation a futile anti-drug strategy

The fumigation of the areas of coca cultivation in Colombia that the U.S. government is paying for, in the belief that it will diminish drug production, is not working, and only destroys other crops and livestock and makes many peasants sick ("Coca scars Colombia with violence, corruption," Nov. 29).

If we remember the cardinal rule of a capitalist economy - supply and demand - we have to see that as long as the citizens of this country demand cocaine and heroin for their use, there will be enough supply from Colombia, Afghanistan, Mexico or any other place in the planet.

There is a great deal of money to be made in those countries, as well as here, by those in charge of the distribution of these drugs.

What is needed is education and treatment for users or potential drug users in this country rather than construction of more jails to house drug criminals - which is just as futile an approach as fumigation back in Colombia.

Jaime Lievano

Baltimore

Perhaps lawmakers deserve a pay cut

The recommendation of the General Assembly Compensation Commission to freeze the salary of senators and delegates of the General Assembly is heartening to those of us who pay taxes (and the salaries of our legislators) and raises the hope that some sanity may be growing in government ("State legislators' pay is frozen," Nov. 29).

Most of our lawmakers have done little to move Maryland forward. But many have spent a lot of time in office opposing the governor's initiatives.

Perhaps consideration should also be given to a salary decrease. And for those legislators who consider the proposed salary inadequate, there is a very viable option - do not run for re-election.

Eugene L. Jones

Baltimore

Let states execute juvenile murderers

Now that the courts have abolished the death penalty for juveniles, I see that the liberals think life imprisonment is too harsh ("No juvenile lifers," editorial, Nov. 27).

There should be no juvenile lifers.

The Supreme Court should step up and apologize to the American people and undo its sham ruling on the juvenile death penalty.

Otherwise, the U.S. Congress should step in and strip the court of its jurisdiction on this matter and allow states to execute juvenile murderers.

M. Norman Ryan

Bel Air

Murderers can't set standard for mercy

Several letter writers responded to Cardinal William H. Keeler's call for mercy in the pending execution of convicted killer Wesley Eugene Baker ("The cardinal's call for mercy misplaced," Dec. 1). These letters reflect two common pro-death-penalty rages that are unworthy of thoughtful people.

First, they suggest that the killer showed no mercy, so why should we?

This suggests not only that should we follow the example set by a person who kills, but also that it should be public policy.

I hope our societal goal is to reject such an example.

Second, they suggest that showing compassion for a killer means one has no compassion for the victim or the victim's loved ones.

Is love and compassion something in such limited supply that it must be so selectively rationed?

Do these writers truly believe that Cardinal Keeler and other death penalty opponents have no care or compassion for a killer's victims and loved ones?

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