Pubdate: Sun, 25 Oct 1998
Date: 10/25/1998
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Author: Coyt Randal Johnston

Re: "Fugitive since 1970 found, officials say - Dallas man fled court
after heroin conviction," Oct. 14.

How totally absurd! In 1970, Charles Edward Garrett was sentenced to
life in prison for possessing heroin; not dealing, but just having 23
capulets of this controlled substance on his person.

Absurdity No. 1: Take people with a drug problem and spend tax dollars
putting them through the "University of Crime" we call our prison
system. Our prisons are overflowing because of the war on drugs. We
have telethons and charity golf tournaments and ballroom dances and
auctions for every disease imaginable except, of course, diseases
associated with drug addiction. For drugs, we declare war and then
lock up the afflicted. I hope we never declare a war on cedar pollen

Absurdity No. 2: Lock them up for life. Fortunately, our state penal
code has become a little less "absurd" since 1970, when possession of
a small amount of marijuana (that would today be treated as a
misdemeanor) would result in a life sentence. Lots of people were
sentenced to life in prison because of small amounts of marijuana or
heroin in the early '70s. This continues in the federal system even

Mr. Garrett, however, did not go to prison to serve his life sentence:
he walked out of the courtroom and assumed a new, law-abiding
identity. For 28 years, he worked, paid taxes, and began raising a
family. He did on his own what we would not have done for him if we
had sent him to prison: He learned how to be a law-abiding citizen.

On Oct. 12, Dallas Sheriff's Department officials arrested Mr. Garrett
at his job as a maintenance technician at the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center and now our tax dollars are finally going
to be spent the way we intended: He is going to be sent to prison to
start serving his life sentence, at the age of 56.

Am I the only one who thinks this is stupid?

His story graces the same pages that include a mother's failure to
come to the aid of her murdered child, a police officer arrested for
rape, the death of a 3-year-old child who was the victim of physical
abuse, and an arrest warrant for a man alleged to have broken into
over 300 storage facilities in Tarrant County. If these people are
ultimately convicted, are we really serving any purpose by sending Mr.
Garrett to prison to live with them?

Dallas, Tx 75202