16 May 1997
Singer Steve Earle questions drug stance
To the Editor:
An open letter to Mayor Bredesen:
I ran across an article in The Tennessean
which concerned me a great deal. According to the paper, you recently
commissioned a study at taxpayers' expense to look into the crack cocaine
epidemic in our city.
As I am somewhat of an expert on the subject
(as well as a taxpayer and voter), I commend you on your initiative.
I am a recovering crack addict with two
years, eight months and 29 days clean, thanks to the grace of God and the
support of my fellow recovering addicts. Your reaction to the findings
of your own commission, however, confuses me.
Why would your honor go to the trouble
and expense of such a study only to ignore the findings returned by a panel
of hand-picked experts?
Since you seem to think you know more about
crack than your own experts, how about giving me a shot? Ready?
Here we go:
Crack is called the "product" by the people
who make millions of dollars every year selling it. Crack was developed
and marketed in the early '80s in America's poor neighborhoods. Desperate
people impatiently waiting for trickle-down economics to trickle down to
them were the target market.
Like prohibition-era beer barons before
them, professional criminals threw themselves into the task of filling
Make no mistake — crack is the most addictive
substance ever unleashed on the streets. There has never been anything
like it. It instantly creates a demand for itself, which creates
dollars, which creates greed, which creates death.
Now that it's loose, even its masters aren't
immune. I've seen more than one man succumb to the pipe or die at
the hands of his competition.
Good riddance? Yeah, maybe.
Only problem is that these kids are some of our best and brightest.
They are the future of their community and our country.
It is a shameful waste.
Your commission recommended that the lion's
share of funds be spent on treatment as opposed to enforcement. I
I went to jail for my drug use over and
over again. Nothing deterred me until I was lucky enough to get into
treatment at Buffalo Valley in Hohenwald. I went to get out of jail
— not to get clean, but something happened to me there. I've been
clean ever since.
Most of the guys I was in treatment with
don't make it. I returned to the Metro jail from treatment, only
to be immediately approached by an inmate selling crack. Oh yeah,
there's dope in jail — it just costs more.
Treatment may not be the fastest solution
to the crack problem, or the cheapest, or with today's voters screaming
for tougher law enforcement.
It's just the only one that works.
I'm living proof. I don't see any concrete return on the millions
spent on new jails, unless of course you ask the chairman of Correction
Corporation of America.
Despite what some people believe, the drug
is color blind. It isn't even class conscious.
Although crack was aimed at poor people,
it's out now, like the horrors that issued from Pandora's box. It
kills black people, white people, poor people, rich people.
It brings down executives, entertainers,
doctors, lawyers and police. It even slowed down one big city mayor
I know of.
Think about it.
— Steve Earle, 1815 Division Street
(Nashville, TN) 37203