Pubdate: Sat, 19 Jul 2003
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2003 Charleston Daily Mail
Author: Joseph E. Hopwood


I respond to the Daily Mail's July 17 editorial, "Expunging: Criminal
offenses are public record to discourage repeat performances." The editorial
needs rethinking, a great deal of it.

As a fourth-generation member of an old West Virginia crime family, let me
assure you that putting people in prison for long periods makes no sense
except to policemen who live off the practice.

We now have 2 million people in prison who will someday return to society
more prone to crime than when they were sentenced, and who will be fodder
for the next generation of policemen.

Taxpayers in West Virginia support a prison population equal to a city the
size of Wheeling -- very expensive welfare. It would be far cheaper to give
them all scholarships to Morgantown.

There are only two solutions to the crime problem -- education and
psychological treatment for those who need it.

The prison mentality is growing rapidly among all classes.

Warehousing a convict as punishment wastes a man's life, and the ex-prisoner
will be thinking of those wasted years when he blows your head off.

Half the people in prison in our country are in prison for drug-related
crime. Another 30 percent are in prison due to another addictive drug,

Putting the cream of our youth in prison for drugs and alcohol is stupid. It
never did any good and never will.

Addiction is a very natural state for the human animal, and we all have a
constitutional right to use any drug, addictive or not, in our own

At least that is what I taught my children.

Drugs do not hurt our democracy or threaten our freedoms. It's the
handcuffs, stupid.

Joseph E. Hopwood

Quantico, Md.

Hopwood once lived in Weston.
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