Pubdate: Tue, 08 May 2001
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company
Author: Channing Webster


I take issue with Donnie R. Marshall's April 21 op-ed piece, "How Real Is 
'Traffic'?" As a nonviolent drug offender incarcerated in a federal prison, 
I am prohibited by law from watching the movie. But Mr. Marshall's 
assertion that most drug offenders in federal prison are dealers is 

Charges such as intent to distribute, trafficking and conspiracy have legal 
definitions encompassing such acts as giving away, portioning out or even 
having knowledge of drugs or of a deal. That means, for example, that 
passing a joint between friends is legally defined as trafficking.

His vision of a winnable drug war is in contrast to a projected 30 percent 
increase in the Federal Bureau of Prisons' inmate population in the next 
five years. Suspects who refuse or are unable to cooperate receive long 
sentences, and sometimes family members wind up indicted as well to serve 
as government bargaining chips. Too often it is the bigger players with the 
most names to provide who receive the least prison time.

How many Americans will we continue to incarcerate before we decide to try 
a more humane and effective policy, such as that of Canada or even the 

Channing Webster, Ashland, Ky.
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