Pubdate: Thu, 29 Nov 2001
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Tom O'Connell, M.D.
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Editor -- Your editorial "Educating prisoners" (Nov. 26) points out the 
crushing cost of using the prison system to compensate for our state's 
failure to educate its poor. Twenty-one new prisons since 1981 were paid 
for by systematically neglecting both educational and health-care 
infrastructures. As you point out, it now costs as much annually to 
maintain our prisons as it did to construct the new ones.

Those prisons were filled by the war on drugs. Arrests for possession and 
use, street crime bred by illegal markets and greatly inflated prices for 
illegal drugs all contributed.

The problem is intensified by inadequate education of the most 
disadvantaged pupils.

Although blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rates, the drug war 
is waged primarily in urban inner city neighborhoods dogged by poverty, 
broken homes and unemployment. That's also where access to prescription 
drugs is minimal, public schools have been most shamefully neglected and 
citizens' rights are ignored with impunity.

Attempting to finally educate our poor as felons in prison, while 
laudatory, seems the least efficient way to address the problem.

Tom O'Connell, M.D., San Mateo
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