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Robert Downey Jr.

August 11, 1999

The sentencing of Robert Downey Jr. to three years in the penitentiary is just one more example of our barbarous approach to the drug problem in this country (Aug. 6). Fifty years from now they will look back on these times and shake their heads in disbelief that we put people in prison for addiction problems, instead of offering treatment for what is a health--not a criminal--problem.

The war on drugs is a total, miserable failure, and you need look no further back in our history than the pathetic attempt at prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s to see what a doomed policy it truly is. Prohibition didn't work then, and it's not working now.

DON M. HOWARD

Oak Hills

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Cheers to Mike Downey for his Aug. 6 column on Robert Downey Jr.'s jail sentence. Judge Lawrence Mira used very poor judgment in his decision on how the taxpayers' dollars are best spent and how to handle drug addiction. Housing and feeding drug addicts and exposing them to real criminals is not a solution. Helping them through rehabilitation is the only correct method to solve drug addiction.

Robert Downey Jr. is a public figure, so we will hear how he is handled by the system. How many drug addicts are incarcerated who we do not hear about? How many lives are destroyed because incarceration is an easy and short-term solution to a long-term problem?

JAN FOSTER

West Hollywood

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I too have only pity for Robert Downey Jr.'s plight. I have been where he is--it took me 13 years to get clean and sober and I am still in recovery after two years. But for Mike Downey to suggest that he did not deserve to go to prison, I would like him to ponder this: What if that had been your home he chose to pass out in while loaded and with a gun, no less?

Robert Downey Jr. is exactly where he belongs--with other dangerous criminals, some of whom may have the same kind of demons to battle. For his attorney to say that he doesn't deserve to be in prison is ludicrous. Who knows what will happen the next time he decides to get loaded?

VALERIE SAUNDERS

Marina del Rey

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