Pubdate: Fri, 24 Apr 1998
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Bill Hildebrand


Editor -- I was disappointed, but not surprised, that conservative
politicians are opposing needle exchange programs. There is not one shred of
evidence that needle exchange programs, which help prevent the spread of
AIDS, result in increased drug use. However, this is an election year, and
overblown assertions like those of Republican National Chairman Jim
Nicholson, who said the programs give ``aid and comfort to the enemy in the
war on drugs,'' are to be expected.

What really bothered me was the spewings of self-appointed national morals
arbiter, William Bennett. ``Needle exchange is a terrible and morally
indefensible policy,'' Bennett said. ``The problem isn't dirty needles, the
problem is heroin and drug addiction.''

Many people don't know that even if an addicted person wants to quit, the
waiting lists for treatment centers are so long that it can take months,
even years, to get in. Study after study has shown that treating addicts is
not only far more effective than locking them up, it is far less expensive
as well.

Bennett and his chums have consistently opposed providing funds for
treatment, preferring increasingly punitive measures. After spending tens of
billions of taxpayer dollars and imprisoning hundreds of thousands of
Americans, drugs are cheaper and more plentiful than ever.

I am curious how Mr. Bennett defends the morality of these policies.

Bill Hildebrand