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Lock 'em up?

In response to Chansokhy Anhaouy's article "Drug Users Need Tough Love, Not Needle Exchange".

I think there is something fundamentally and fiscally wrong with incarcerating every drug user. After reading Anhaouy’s spastic attempts at creating a coherent argument, I have concluded that the letter is devoid of fact or an elementary understanding of the world.

If locking up people for drugs is the solution, I’d like to hear Anhaouy’s proposal for funding those programs. Pull up any set of numbers from the internet and you’ll find that running a prison is an exponentially greater cost than running a needle exchange and has much smaller rates of success. I don’t think your “spend more to get far fewer results” recommendation would fly in any country or in any economy. Even a simple suggestion as to where we will put all of those prisons would be appreciated. California is already releasing people for non-violent drug offenses because they realized that this was a senseless waste of taxpayer dollars.

The bottom line is that needle exchange programs actively save lives. I don’t work in this field so I’ll leave it to Holly Bradford to give you the statistics supplied by the World Health Organization. Simply put, Anhaouy needs to look through a reality-based lens. This will never be a drug free world. Because drugs impact people in different ways some people are more susceptible to addiction. They need care and support. With programs like Korsang there is significant evidence to indicate that the spread of blood borne diseases has decreased. Anhaouy: I suggest pulling your head out of the Vancouver School Board or ISS of BC and taking a much closer look at Vancouver. You clearly have no idea what’s happening around you.

I have no doubt that Bradford would like to be living in a world free of the pain she sees each day. Knowing that people weren’t dying because of stigma against drug users or watching communities slip away because there isn’t enough support. But I’m sure she also knows that this is not a reality. People are dying because they don’t have enough resources. People are dying because ignorant, self-appointed voices of the, so-called, “moral majority” write articles about matters they know nothing about. Anhaouy, please, do your research first. Bradford is doing the work that many cannot do. She is supporting our world’s most vulnerable communities and literally saving lives. The work that Korsang does is internationally recognized as being a highly successful program and a model for others around the world. It is unfortunate that she must defend her tireless and noble efforts.

I think this is a matter of “I’ve made up my mind, so don’t try to convince me with facts.” Anhaouy is not interested in facts. A simple Google search would give you an innumerable amount of sites with substantial information on the effectiveness and legitimacy of needle exchange programs. Another search will also reveal the major funders of Korsang’s amazing work. I find it very hard to believe that we should all rely on the unintelligible musings of Anhaouy and ignore the highly reputable national and international organizations that support Korsang in their work.

I would also challenge the Phnom Penh Post on its reporting. As news source, it is vital for you to obtain all the information and deliver it in an unbiased way. It does put your credibility into question when a media outlet writes an inflammatory “article” without contacting the founder of the organization you are defaming. News organizations should uphold a dignified standard. Your job is to show us the world around us without using your own biases and prejudices. The Phnom Penh Post should speak for all in the community. All members, all view points, all voices. Even if you don’t like what you hear.

I believe the strength of any society is reflected in how we treat our most vulnerable. Anhaouy is completely wrong. Dignity and compassion are not awards to be won or badges to be earned. They are gifts to be given to each and every person in this society. If we allow dignity and compassion to be assigned, who makes the judgement? How will we decide who should be treated with dignity and compassion? Will we leave that up to Anhaouy? I am frightened of that world. We all deserve compassion, even naysayers like Anhaouy. People who use drugs deserve the same human rights that we all receive.



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