Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 29, 2006

The war on drugs hurts black men

U.S. government statistics confirm that the drug war is being waged in a racist manner ("Young black men need help," Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 24).

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only 15 percent of the nation's drug users are black.

But according to U.S. Justice Department figures, African-Americans account for 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, more than 42 percent of those in federal prisons for drug violations and almost 60 percent of those in state prisons for drug felonies.

Support for the drug war would end overnight if whites were incarcerated for drugs at the same rate that minority drug users are.

Racially disproportionate incarceration rates are not the only cause for alarm.

Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness, addiction and delinquency.

And incarcerating non-violent drug offenders alongside hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing them with a taxpayer-funded education in anti-social behavior.

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 that it is.

Robert Sharpe

Arlington, Va.

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

Families of victims dealt cruel delays

The only people subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in the Vernon Evans Jr. case are the families of the two victims who were murdered ("Ruling opens possibility of indefinite end to executions," Dec. 22).

Their loved ones were slain 23 years ago and Mr. Evans has still not paid the ultimate punishment for this crime.

If lethal injection would be cruel and unusual punishment for poor Mr. Evans, then let's bring back the firing squad or the hangman or the guillotine for that murdering sociopath.

Michael Richardson

Parkville

Executions waste lives and resources

I believe that the Maryland death penalty is not worth trying to fix ("Ruling opens possibility of indefinite end to executions," Dec. 22).

Our state spends approximately $2 million annually on capital cases.

And the human costs of the death penalty are paid by the victim's family who must return to court again and again for the appeals.

This lethal injection case is only the latest example.

The death penalty diverts resources which could provide support for victims of violence.

As Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley has himself noted, we need to decide whether to spend money on a broken system or on effectively addressing violent crimes in our state.

The millions spent on capital punishment also cut into the resources available for schools, hospitals, public safety, jobs and other important programs.

Capital punishment is a failed public policy, and I urge the state of Maryland to do away with it once and for all.

Patricia Ash

Baltimore

Mercy for Hussein may save other lives

The bloodshed in Iraq must end somewhere, and sparing the life of Saddam Hussein is as good a place to start as any ("Death sentence of Hussein upheld," Dec. 27).

I am not sympathetic to Mr. Hussein personally.

But if sentencing him to life in prison instead of death would save the life of even one other person by encouraging mercy, it would be worth it.

Joseph Davidson

Columbia

Leaders in the rear push troops to front

The military leaders who say we might need a troop surge in Iraq mostly lead from the rear and usually have no kin at the front ("Military leaders said to now back surge plan," Dec. 24).

And this bellicose posturing and bombastic talk about the shame of losing comes mostly from people whose personal risk and suffering is so small that it is disgusting.

There are soldiers now being sent back to Iraq for the third time. For what?

There are more and more families mourning losses or dealing with utterly changed reality in the lives of the survivors. For what?

If the leaders of this country are not willing to put their own kin on the line, they have no right to send anyone else's.

And if their kin refuse to go, then it is time to bring everyone's home.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam

Baltimore

Helipad access road is open for business

The Sun's article "Union Memorial seeks helipad" (Dec. 27) attributes to the hospital's chief operating officer the statement that "since the late 1970s, Union Memorial has used a helipad on a water treatment plant at Lake Montebello. But since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, increased security measures have led to the closing of the access road to the helipad, rendering it unusable for Union Memorial."

This is not the case.

The "access road" is the main service drive for Montebello Plant No. 1 and it is in constant use, including by the Baltimore Fire Department's Ambulance Service, specifically for the purpose of emergency medical transportation to Union Memorial Hospital.

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