Thursday May 9, 2013

Doing the crime and doing the time

Editor of the Reformer:

I read with some amusement the letter posted by Mr. Matthew Cook concerning the punishment proposed by the Deputy Vermont State Attorney for a woman who had stolen wallets and a purse ("Does the time (and cost) match the time?" May 1).

The writer equates the cost of her punishment with the value of the items stolen. It appears the writer feels that the individual who perpetrated these thefts should not serve time in prison solely because the cost of incarceration exceeds the value of the items stolen and the Deputy State’s Attorney is somehow responsible for the perpetrator’s crime and, therefore, necessary punishment. In addition, the writer refers to the "Bush-like treatment of public funds" in terms of the cost of a felon’s incarceration. What irony. Crimes are punished as a matter of law. Prosecutors have rigid guidelines that are followed and that are designed to prevent punishments that are vindictive.

Two points: To blame perceived excesses in government spending on the cost of incarceration on (and I am assuming the writer is referring to the younger) President Bush given the profligate deficits resulting from the spending by the current administration somehow should mitigate the punishment for the crime committed; and to permit a crime to go unpunished as a result of the cost of incarceration versus value of the crime is unacceptable on both counts. Crimes deserve punishment and, the writer provides no alternatives other than a screed based on opinion of our judicial system of crime and punishment and a lingering anger at George W. Bush, I can only assume that this person should go unpunished. If that is the case, should a person committing an assault and battery serve a term depending on how much the medical care for the restoration to health of the victim was or, perhaps, lost wages; should a murderer be punished based on the net worth of her victim? How ludicrous.

The old saw says it best. "If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime." The cost of incarceration is part of what we pay for our judicial system; it is what we pay for our standards of law and order and the maintenance of civility. Criticism and opinion is cheap. When a writer offers up an issue, he or she should also suggest the solution; that’s how we move forward.

Stephen Green,

Guilford, May 3

Not the answer

Editor of the Reformer:

Too often in our bicameral legislature, the primary function of lawmaking is the exercise of power, not regulating what is right or wrong.

Now that marijuana decriminalization is (finally) making its way to a conclusion this legislative session, you might think that the Legislature in Montpelier should be lauded for doing the right thing. However, marijuana as an adult consumer product is too far removed from any rational consideration by a state that could barely handle the decriminalization model, and only after an arduous trek by Marijuana Resolve to help bring and keep it before the public eye. The founders of Marijuana Resolve have long supported marijuana as a legal point-of-sale for adults since the beginning of 2010. We only settled for a decriminalization awareness campaign because we knew back then that our legislature simply didn’t have the vision that states like Colorado and Washington demonstrated in their recent legalization of marijuana.

The alcohol model, which is the best way to sell packaged marijuana to adult consumers, is also the better way to help prevent underage usage. I challenge anyone to witness a licensed liquor retailer sell to kids. Why would they risk losing a very lucrative adult market just to sell alcohol to a few kids?

The bonafide liquor retailer undertakes in good faith and by law to uphold its state authorized license, which carries a heavy fine, loss of license and incarceration for willfully selling to minors. Well, the same would be true for retailers who sell marijuana to an adult market.

Licensing the manufacturing, packaging and distribution processes of marijuana for adult point-of-sale is not a perfect solution to protect our kids, but state laws cannot be any more imperfect than what they are now in its crazed pursuit by one group of adults trying to control the private and social behavior of other adults.

And, if the Vermont legislature thinks it can pat itself on the back for belated marijuana decriminalization, think again. Decriminalization of marijuana is just another form of criminalization and it does very little to resolve the social conflict of this unrealistic, unnecessary and ineffective adult prohibition, that does more harm than good.

Vidda Crochetta,

Brattleboro, May 6 Tell the story

Editor of the Reformer:

Everywhere has a drug problem (Editorial: "Reporting the good and the bad," May 3). Reporting or editorializing that a particular place has a drug problem is a distinction without a difference singling out that place. How that place is dealing with the drug problem would be news.

Howard Fairman,

Vernon, May 5

This Bud’s
for you?

Editor of the Reformer:

Once again, Green Up Day finds Putney Mountain Road loaded with prize-winning numbers of beer cans, bottles and soft drink containers (and assorted jetsam from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts). How did they get there, one wonders. Well, those who live on this beautiful dirt road don’t much enjoy the sport of casting empties out the window of moving vehicles, so we have decided to keep track of the brands and give out an annual award on Green Up Day... and Bud wins again. If you are reading this and work for Budweiser, how about a campaign to raise awareness?

Until then, congratulations, Budweiser,

Art Costa,

Putney, May 5

Make the
rich pay for health care

Editor of the Reformer:

Governor Shumlin and the Vermont Legislature are planning to approximately double the cost of health care for a large percentage of Vermonters. Unless people are able to persuade these politicians to change their minds, the price increases will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Details about the cost increases are at www.CatamountHealth.org.

In 2010, more than 44,000 Americans died because the U.S. does not have universal health care, which Canada, Cuba, Europe, Japan, and every other rich nation has. That’s according to Congressman Alan Grayson, who retired in 2010. People in all those countries have a longer life expectancy than people in the USA.

People should call Shumlin and their state legislators and ask them to raise taxes on millionaires to provide free health care for all Vermonters. More information is available from Vermont Workers Center’s "Healthcare is a Human Right" campaign at www.WorkersCenter.org.

Eesha Williams,

Dummerston, May 6