Pubdate: Thu, 18 Apr 2002
Source: Yale Daily News (US CT)
Address: P.O. Box 209007, New Haven, CT 06520-9007
Contact:  2002 Yale Daily News
Fax: (203)432-7425
Author: Candace McKinley


To the Editor:

I found Wednesday's column by Meghan Clyne '03 ("Yale shouldn't reimburse 
lost federal financial aid," 4/17) disturbing yet characteristic of many 
Americans' views toward those we forever label criminals.

One of the problems with the war on drugs is that those who break the law 
are stigmatized and punished for the rest of their lives, long after 
"paying their debt to society."

The war on drugs, in which our government has been engaged for decades, has 
proven to be more destructive than restorative, ruining the lives of urban 
and minority youth for petty drug infractions. A small amount of crack 
cocaine has a stiff mandatory sentence while a similar amount of powder 
cocaine carries with it a much smaller and more lenient sentence. This is 
unfair and misguided -- it goes after persons at the bottom of the drug 
industry instead of focusing on the rich and powerful traffickers and 

I applaud Yale's decision to reimburse lost financial aid for those 
convicted of drug offenses. A small mistake made in someone's past should 
not prevent them from bettering their lives later in life. Yes, a higher 
education is not a right, but it is the key to attaining quality employment 
and a better life. Federal laws denying aid to students with drug offenses 
penalize those who have already been punished. Instead of being restorative 
and using the criminal justice system to rehabilitate as well as punish, 
such policies serve to keep many people forever marginalized, voiceless, 
and oppressed.

Furthermore, denying federal aid and grants disproportionately affects the 
poor and working class, as a wealthy Yale student could easily pay tuition 
and fees without assistance. The federal law should be changed, and Yale's 
stance toward financial aid in this regard is a step in the right 
direction. Many of our leaders have led imperfect lives. What a pity it 
would be if we were denied their talents because of unfair federal policies 
and self-righteous views toward "criminals."

Education should not be used to further punish those we brand criminals. 
Education should be used to help restore lives and provide opportunities 
for people to pursue a better life for themselves and their communities.

Candace McKinley '03
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