Pubdate: Fri, 03 Nov 2000
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
Section: Letters to the Editor, page A22
Contact:  P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378
Author: William J. Leahy, Boston


As Chief Counsel of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, I have known 
Ralph Martin for many years and consider him a friend. I must, however, 
rebut his claim that "Massachusetts does not send first-, second-, or even 
third-time drug users to jail ("Question 8 would aid drug dealers" letter, 

Martin went on to say, "They get help and treatment. We do crack down on 
drug dealers who make fortunes off the misery of others." The statement is 
wrong on both counts. Massachusetts certainly does send drug users to jail 
with appalling regularity.

A typical drug user who supports his habit by selling small amounts of 
cocaine or heroin to other addicts is, upon arrest, charged as a "dealer" 
by prosecutors. In no way is he treated by the law as a "user." Instead, he 
is subjected to the harsh and often mandatory drug laws that require 
incarceration and ignore treatment.

The "crackdown" on major drug profiteers of which Martin boasts is likewise 
inaccurate. The street dealers who constitute the vast majority of those 
arrested and prosecuted for drug distribution in state courts are not 
profiteers but impoverished addicts who are routinely found to be indigent 
by a judge and are represented in court by public defender or assigned counsel.
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