Pubdate: Sun, 24 Dec 2006
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2006 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author: Dean Becker


The Dec. 19 Chronicle article "Houston's rise in violent crime
outpaces U.S." said that "violent crime in Houston increased at nearly
twice the national level." Certain deductions about this near doubling
of violent crime in Houston are obvious.

Houston and Harris County lead the world in the incarceration of our
citizenry; mostly for drug charges, minor amounts, empty bags, empty
pipes or for failing a urine test for drugs. Our jails are so
overcrowded that prisoners sleep underneath bunks and next to toilets,
and we are contemplating building additional jails to house more drug
users. Our jails and prisons are so swamped with drug prisoners that
we find it necessary to provide early release to violent criminals to
make room for these minor drug offenders.

Many cities and states around this nation (even within Texas) have
found it necessary to ease back on sentencing drug users. They have
found it necessary and prudent to cease the arrest and sentencing of
those found with empty bags, pipes and minor amounts of drugs.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal says "when the only
tool you have to work with is a hammer, everything begins to look like
a nail." Police Chief Harold Hurtt, a black man, seems indifferent to
the fact that Houston arrests blacks at a rate significantly higher
than that of South Africa under apartheid. Houston and Harris County
lead the world in the incarceration of our own people, and yet we seek
to build more jails, to send more people to prison for longer periods
of time for minor amounts of drugs. At some point, for moral reasons,
for fiscal reasons, we will have to back down from our "jihad" against
drug users.

Perhaps then, our police force can focus its attentions on violent
criminals, and we'll have plenty of prison beds available so the
predator types can serve their full sentence.


spokesman, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Houston
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