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This letter is in re-

sponse to “Innocent Even if Proven Guilty” (4/19).

I am an African-American male living in the Washington metropolitan area, and everyday I view the effects of drugs in society. Crack, cocaine, and heroin have ravaged the black community—indeed all communities—to such an extent that the effects are impossible to deny or ignore.

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I do not agree with Paul Butler’s opinion that people who sell drugs, as well those who commit nonviolent crimes to support their drug addiction, should be set free simply because of their color. True, poverty, as well as the lack of proper education and the deterioration of the family unit, make drug peddling a viable method for escaping the conditions of the inner city, but releasing a criminal in order to negate draining the black community of its youth and thereby its potential simply allows the perpetrator to recommit the same crime. On the other hand, sentencing a 15- or even a 20-year-old to years in prison simply leaves you with an older criminal, more hardened and with even lower chances of success.

I would suggest that instead of years of unproductive hard time (most criminals released from prison recommit the same felonies responsible for their arrest in the first place), these youthful offenders be sentenced to perform services within the community. Most notably, working with drug-dependency groups and people who have suffered the most due to their illicit activities. When forced to face the conditions and hardships that they themselves are helping to perpetuate, these offenders not only are given the opportunity to change their ways but they are also repairing, to some small extent, the damage to people’s lives as well as the community. It’s true that the penal system to some extent doesn’t work. Until the powers that be realize that education and rehabilitation instead of simple incarceration are the answers, then we have no choice but to attempt to remedy these problems whatever ways we can. For the good of our people, our community, and most importantly, our youth.

Silver Spring, Md