Editorial: A Punishment too Great 

Editorial: A Punishment too Great 
Posted by FoM on March 27, 2000 at 21:38:12 PT
Staff Editorial, Independent Florida Alligator
Source: U-WIRE
There comes a point when every action we take has some effect, however intangible, on the doors that open to us later in life. More important still is the point at which we realize said change. On July 1, an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1998 will expedite that process by delaying or denying federal financial aid benefits to any student for any drug conviction, closing countless doors to those for whom education stands as the best chance for reform. 
A bill by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank to repeal the amendment must be passed quickly to ensure that misguided reform attempts do not manifest in ways that would negatively impact the non-rich, minorities and society in general. Repealing the amendment is not an attack on the much-maligned war on drugs. It is, however, an attack on the classist mentality that fuels such upper-class notions of justice, often inextricably linked to the peculiar effect money has on the scales of justice. Children of working- and middle-class families are more likely to be arrested for drug offenses, less likely to have effective legal counsel adequately represent them and more likely to require some form of financial aid to attend college. Adding to the injustices the bill perpetrates is its working dependence on an adequate national drug policy that does not exist. In the "war" against marijuana, for example, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 87 percent of 695,000 arrests made by state and local law enforcement agencies in 1997 arose from simple, non-violent possession. In the same year, any students among the 53 people University police arrested for drug law violations would have lost federal financial aid, while the seven arrested and 14 referred for forcible sex offenses still received scholarship checks in the mail. The bill's connection to drug policy promises to let the drug war's inherent racism spill into higher education, effectively twisting the dagger against minorities who already face eroding affirmative action programs. Despite the fact that blacks comprise 13 percent of the population and roughly 13 percent of drug users, the Justice Department reported in 1998 that blacks represent 55 percent of drug convictions and nearly three-quarters of drug-related incarcerations. Though it complements America's reliance on incarceration as a solution to pressing social ills, no action smacks more of counter-productivity than that which revokes the chance for education in the name of discipline. (U-WIRE) Gainesville, Fla.Updated 12:00 PM ET March 27, 2000 (C) 2000 Independent Florida Alligator via U-WIRE  Copyright  1995-2000 Excite Inc. Related Articles & Web Sites:Students for Sensible Drug Policy: Education Department: Students Seeking Aid Not Answering Drug Question Articles On SSDP, Students & Financial Aid: 
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Comment #1 posted by LSN on March 27, 2000 at 23:20:06 PT
Well said.
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