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A Change of Heart


I am a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Montana. I recently attended an event put on in the town of Missoula where I received your pamphlet. I honestly didn't think much of it until I remembered an experience I had this past summer.

While working as a counselor at a summer camp in northern Minnesota I had the opportunity to work with a young 11-year-old boy whom I'll call "John." On my first visit with John I saw he had a picture of his father hanging above his bed. As I took a closer look he said angrily "Yeah, that's my dad. He's in jail. So what?"

Not wanting to pry into his life the first day he was at the camp I left it at that. Later that night at a staff meeting I learned that his father was in prison for illegal transportation of narcotics.

I cannot be sure of his father's guilt or innocence or if he had a drug addiction or not, but I do know the consequences it had on his son. My first reaction to hearing the circumstances of John's father's incarceration was fury. I found it hard to believe that a grown man with a wife and children and a good paying job (he was a dentist), could ruin his entire family. I remember the rage and the visions of what I'd like to do to John's father if I were ever able to get my hands on him.

John was deeply affected by his father's incarceration. He was what we call a "problem child" to say the least. In addition to the deep pain and insecurity, John was also diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder). I had a difficult 4 weeks with him.

John would often shout, "You hate me just because my father is in jail!"

I sometimes felt that he needed to be with a psychiatrist instead of being at summer camp. I knew he was a good kid at heart, but I couldn't help but be angry with his father for putting so much pain in his son's life.

After reading your pamphlet I have taken an entirely different angle to the whole problem. I have been against the drug war since I became a teenager. When I met John however, I blamed the entire situation on his father. Now, with the help of your pamphlet, I place the blame for this boy's hardship, pain and insecurity on the United States Government.

John's father was a nonviolent, professional man, and to my knowledge, a great father, too. I cannot honestly say if he was a narcotics addict, but I do know the pain it has caused his son. I am sure that this boy and his entire family would have a much better life if his father was in a recovery program instead of prison.

I want to see the drug war stopped in the United States. I have a long history of alcoholism in my family and have seen the consequences. It often leads to dysfunctional families. The double standard between alcohol and illegal drugs is absurd. I find it hard to believe that individuals in our society are allowed to get drunk every night while destroying their families, but if one is caught with marijuana it could mean a long and horrible stay in one of our penitentiaries.

I want to thank your organization for working to change majority opinion in America. Along with this letter I have included $25 (I would like to give more, but as a student, I find it financially hard to buy a stick of gum) and my membership form. I would like to help in any other ways possible, including volunteering my time and energy in any way. Thank you for your time and efforts made on the part of these people. I will never forget John or his father or any of the other people wrongly incarcerated in this country. Thank you.

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