The forbidden fruit appeal

To the Editor:

Christie Donner of the Boulder-based Criminal Justice Reform Coalition is to be commended for raising awareness of the high cost of America's punitive approach to some drugs. When reading the Nov. 25 article on Colorado's drug problem, I was shocked to learn that Colorado is one of only nine states in which more than half of those in prison on drug charges were arrested for drug possession. Despite harsh penalties, drug use in Colorado ranks high; in fact the state leads the nation in marijuana use.

Could it be that the forbidden fruit appeal of banned substances actually encourages use? A majority of European countries have decriminalized marijuana. Draconian drug laws in the United States support a multi-billion dollar prison-industrial complex, with very little to show for it. Despite zero tolerance, lifetime use of marijuana in the U.S. is higher than any European country. (The results of a comparative study of European and U.S. rates of drug use can be found online at: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/espad_pr.pdf)

Colorado's high incarceration rate does not necessarily make the state safer. Prisons transmit violent habits and values rather than reduce them. Most non-violent drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal job opportunities due to criminal records. Turning recreational drug users into hardened criminals is not a good use of tax dollars.

At present there is a glaring double standard in place. Alcohol and tobacco are by far the two deadliest recreational drugs, yet the government does not make it their business to actively destroy the lives of drinkers and smokers. Would alcoholics even seek treatment for their illness if doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Instead of wasting billions incarcerating non-violent drug offenders, we should be funding cost-effective drug treatment.

--Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.
The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation
Washington, D.C.

Happy to be rigid

To the Editor:

Call me narrow-minded, but these kooks need to stay to themselves [She: Conni's struggle for dignity and family, Nov. 8-14]. I don't want to hear of their problems, and I do not want their problems shoved in my face. I read the CS Indy to keep track of what the other side is up to. I do not care to diversify or be tolerant -- the Army told me to, too. Now I recognize a nut case when I see one.

-- Mike Dickman
Blue Earth, Minn.

Tempest helps healing

To the Editor:

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to have found your Oct. 11 issue during my research tonight on the Internet (looking for articles and essays regarding Terry Tempest Williams and the events of Sept. 11). One of my courses at school is a reading and conference class that I designed called "September 11 journal," as a way of processing and recording my thoughts on this life-and-earth-changing-event.

I saw Terry Tempest Williams over a month ago at Powells Bookstore here in Portland, Ore. She reminded me that I wasn't healed from those events yet and she pointed the way, in a direction, where I might do that healing more effectively. A remarkable person.

Thanks for your efforts.

-- Kris Wood
Portland, Ore.

Bearer of the news

To the Editor:

I was surprised to see Stephen Raher's Nov. 15 letter "The Westside whining session." I was so surprised that I contacted several people I know, who also attended that meeting. They all remember it, shall I say, differently.

So I would like to take this opportunity to respond.

The Organization of Westside Neighbors (O.W.N.) is one of the oldest and largest neighborhood associations in the city; we've been around since the early '80s. We have a contract with the City of Colorado Springs to be the voice on issues of neighborhood concern. To be effective in this role we hold monthly town meetings and publish a quarterly newsletter to over 6,000 residences, as part of our outreach efforts. We invite speakers to make presentations to the neighborhood on issues of concern. We did this when Fire Station #3 was threatened; we did this when the community was negatively impacted by the flood of 1999; we do this every month.

The November 2001 town meeting featured a presentation by the principal of one of our local schools. The second part of the meeting (and apparently the most offensive part to Mr. Raher) was the presentation of the survey results conducted by O.W.N. regarding a proposal that appears in the Continuum for Care of the City of Colorado Springs. Priority One proposes the placement of a Human Services Establishment at 2032 W. Cucharras Street by the Urban Peak Housing Corporation. The survey was prepared at the request of the 80-plus neighbors who attended our August 2001 town meeting. With almost 300 replies, the level of response surprised us, as did the passion on both sides of the issue, evidenced by the many letters enclosed with the returned questionnaires. The tabulation showed a greater than 5:1 ratio across the O.W.N. strategy area reflecting an unfavorable sentiment. The response from the 4-block area around the proposed facility showed a 22:1 sentiment against the proposal. We don't apologize for the numbers; we didn't invent them, we merely reported them.

I wish that Mr. Raher had voiced his opinion at the town meeting. I hope he continues to attend our meetings and decides to become active in O.W.N., and that goes for all residents of our West Side community.

-- Thomas C. Gallagher, president
Organization of Westside Neighbors

In grave danger

To the Editor:

A "president" of dubious legitimacy plans to institute special military tribunals to try "terrorists." He justifies this evisceration of the entire legal system with the excuse that these exceptional measures are necessary for "safety." Where are we? Lima, Peru? No, Washington, D.C. The government has no business using secret evidence against defendants, even with the current practice of making filings for the court to uphold the secrecy of this evidence. The transparency of court proceedings and the nature of the prosecution as a public accusation, a public presentation of the evidence, are essential safeguards against misdeeds by the state.

The government has now given up any right to speak of the "freedom" we enjoy in the United States (indeed, it has long ago done so, but now no one can challenge this). The United States is now just a nation like the USSR was with its show-trials, a nation without even a fig leaf of judicial legitimacy. We have been (on Sept. 11 and with the following anthrax attacks) in grave danger on these shores. But there is no justification for supplementing this physical danger with constitutional and moral danger tantamount to the wiping-out of the entire Anglo-American system of jurisprudence. This is not liberty. This is not even its palest parody, constitutional law. This is facial tyranny of the most blatant and inescapable kind.

In Lima, Peru, in addition to the civil war waged against the government by the PCP, opponents of the fascistic regime of Alberto Fujimori set fire to government buildings and openly rebelled in the streets, essentially forcing Fujimori not to abandon his office from abroad. Will it be necessary to resort to the same steps in Washington?

-- Daniel C. Boyer
Houghton, Mich.

The implications of grammar

To the Editor:

I think we need to be careful about the implications of grammar. When Rep. Lee is cited as "the only member of Congress brave enough to vote her conscience and decline to authorize the use of military force" it is not clear that only connects with the authorization, not with bravery [Your Turn, Oct. 25-31]. Surely we're willing to concede that some of those who voted for the use of force voted their consciences. Also, we can know that she voted against authorizing force. We cannot know that she did it from conscience.

--John Lawing
Colorado Springs

Acts of treason

To the Editor:

This is our government in action:

Our government is fighting in Afghanistan to establish religious freedom, yet here they try to destroy it by removing the separation of church and state through vouchers, school prayer and charitable choice.

Our government is fighting in Afghanistan against terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, yet here they have their own terrorist groups like the ATF, DEA and IRS.

Our government is arming the people of Afghanistan, yet here they try to take those same arms away.

Our government is fighting in Afghanistan to establish justice and protect privacy for the Afghan people, yet here they deny both with secret kangaroo courts, including unanswerable military tribunals.

Our government is fighting in Afghanistan to give all the Afghan people equal treatment, yet here they deny it by racially profiling those same people.

Our government is fighting in Afghanistan to give the people their freedom, yet here they try to take our freedom away ... .

Does anybody else find all of this outrageous and ironic?

What our so-called leaders fail to understand is that our freedom and our liberty exist not because of people like them, but despite people like them. Our freedom is our security! Liberties are not secured by taking them away! To take them away is to commit treason!

As a Libertarian, this is why I am appalled at the acts of our government.

As patriots and citizens, we all should be!

-- Michael W. Seebeck
Midway, Colo.


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