Pubdate: Thu, 02 Aug 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles Times
Author: Josh Meyer, Times Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Hutchinson, Asa)


The federal government should offer more rehabilitation programs for 
drug offenders even as it aggressively enforces drug laws, the 
incoming head of the Drug Enforcement Administration said Wednesday 
in Los Angeles.

Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) said he thinks it is "unconscionable" 
that so many drug offenders are serving time in prison while limited 
rehabilitation programs exist to help keep them off drugs once they 
get out.

Hutchinson, who was approved as DEA administrator Wednesday by a 98-1 
vote of the Senate, said he will seek additional funding for such 
programs. "I don't think we ought to reduce our commitment to law 
enforcement, because when we did that in 1992, we cut DEA agents, we 
cut the drug czar's office and we saw at the same time teenage drug 
use going up," Hutchinson said in an interview with Los Angeles Times 
reporters and editors.

Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor and member of the House 
Speaker's Task Force for a Drug-Free America, said law enforcement is 
only one component of an effective anti-drug campaign. Educating 
youths and providing medical treatment for drug users are key 
elements as well, he said.

"There is a treatment gap in this country, and we need to have more 
resources for treatment. I think it is unconscionable for a society 
to put people in jail and not give them adequate treatment programs 
in jail," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson, a father of four, also said the government must find ways 
to discourage youths from using drugs such as Ecstasy and make sure 
they understand the substances are dangerous and illegal.

Such rehabilitation and education efforts should not come at the 
expense of fighting the drug scourge with aggressive law enforcement, 
Hutchinson said.

But he said the DEA should embark on what he called "a compassionate 
crusade" rather than the "war on drugs" so often touted by his 

As part of that compassionate effort, Hutchinson said he would 
support allowing convicted drug offenders to remain eligible for 
federal student loans.

Hutchinson said many offenders who left prison years ago are now 
finding that they cannot get financial aid "even though they've 
turned their lives around."

Such financial aid, he said, is an important component in letting 
drug offenders "get back to leading useful, productive lives."

Hutchinson said he plans to resign his congressional seat as soon as 
possible to start his new job. He replaces Donnie R. Marshall, who 
was nominated by former President Clinton.
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