To the Editor:
“Freed From Prison, but Still Paying a Penalty” (news article, Dec. 29) exposes the draconian effects of a criminal justice system whose focus on tough punishment leaves little room for rehabilitation. While punishment for criminal behavior is essential, the continuing penalization of people who are overwhelmingly poor and from minority communities through a ban on welfare benefits or other public programs is counterproductive.
A more cost-effective and socially responsible approach is to stipulate that those who served time for drug-related offenses or are substance abusers enroll in a goal-oriented treatment program that offers job training and help with housing.
Drug treatment is not an easy way out. Participants still face discrimination, but without treatment, many return to crime, drugs and ultimately prison.
President, Odyssey House
New York, Dec. 30, 2002