I am responding to Angel Melvin and Elizabeth Handschy, authors of an Aug. 7 letter regarding the Portland Press Herald’s coverage of the arrest of Jesse Harvey, founder of Journey House Recovery and the Church of Safe Injection. The writers were very critical of the article, claiming it promotes the idea that “people who use drugs are still only criminals who perpetuate harm and violence, instead of people with a disease.”

One of the charges against Harvey is assault; is that not violence? Another charge is operating under the influence; is that not harm, if he crashes into another vehicle? The third charge is drug possession, and that, very clearly, is a crime. Possession of heroin is, I believe, a felony under certain circumstances, and the offender should be arrested and jailed. It is not a disease or a health struggle.

If you have to purchase an illegal powder, heat it to turn it into a liquid and inject it into yourself, using a hypodermic, which is illegal to possess in quantity, you are not ill. You are, to use a poor choice of words, stupid on steroids. Drug users represent the “apex of Moronia,” to borrow a phrase from H.L. Mencken.

I’ve heard several politicians claim that we “cannot arrest our way out of this problem.” They offer no proof; it’s just a stupid throwaway line. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani proved that you most certainly can arrest your way out of criminal behavior. People sleeping on the streets were offered services such as drug rehabilitation. Refusal to go into rehab or other services led to arrest. It worked.

Let’s face it, it’s the drug users who are breaking into our houses, cars, businesses, you name it. They spend their time shoplifting, stealing, doing whatever it takes to sustain their habit. Society should do better by them and correct their antisocial behavior, sternly, if necessary.

Harry White


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