Let reason prevail
I AM wholeheartedly in support of state Judge Michael McSpadden and the Chronicle's editorial board for their enlightened approach to our "bogged down" legal system in Harris County (see the Chronicle's Nov. 21 editorial "Smarter on crime / It's time for Harris County to heed the message of a tough-on-crime judge about handling of drug cases").
Having served on grand juries since 1997, I have been appalled by the waste of time, money and young lives by our self-righteous system.
Trace elements of any controlled substance are treated as felonious contraband that subjects the holder to be sentenced to a two-year term in our state jails.
I appealed to Harris County years ago for our courts to consider "possession of narcotics paraphernalia" as an alternative — the way it is commonly handled in most of the other 253 jurisdictions in Texas — but to no avail.
The system we have is turning out a whole generation of unemployed thieves because once a person receives a felony conviction, it's near impossible to get a job anywhere. Not many employers want to take a chance on hiring a felon.
The felon feels there no hope of gainful employment, so he or she commits more crime, and the taxpayers end up bearing the burden.
We must move into the 21st century and solve this drug problem. Filling up our jails is obviously not the correct approach.
Perhaps the Legislature will allow reason to prevail in its next session but we can't just keep putting one foot in front of the last one.
BOB RYAN Houston
Drug courts work
SENDING nonviolent drug offenders to state jail for six months to two years further ruins the lives of drug addicts arrested for simple possession. The Chronicle's Nov. 21 editorial was aptly titled "Smarter on crime."
Two years ago, the state of New York reported saving $254 million by sending these individuals to drug courts instead of to jail.
Harris County has established three drug courts, led by Judge Caprice Cosper. They are performing admirably but lack funds for treatment. That's why the Harris County Drug Court Foundation was started up to address this moral issue.
Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston is helping us reach out to the faith community to help support the drug courts. Selected offenders are receiving three months of residential treatment followed by transitional help.
Those Houstonians who are interested in helping to solve what is really a public health issue — not a criminal justice issue — may contact us.
GABRIEL M. GELB treasurer, Harris County Drug Court Foundation, Houston
Monday, November 27, 2006
LTEs support Judge McSpadden's appeal to reduce drug sentences
Two letters to the editor caught my eye last week in the Houston Chronicle - one from a long-time grand juror, another from a drug court supporter working with the religious community. Both wrote to support Judge McSpadden, the hard-line GOP jurist who wants to reduce drug sentences to clear big-city felony dockets (see this prior Grits post). Here's what they had to say: