Monday, August 23, 1999

Treatment programs
for drug offenders

Bullet The issue: Governor Cayetano wants to establish community-based drug treatment programs for nonviolent offenders as an alternative to prison sentences.
Bullet Our view: Such programs are essential to controlling the drug problem and are worth increases in alcohol and tobacco taxes.

GOVERNOR Cayetano plans to push for legislation mandating treatment rather than prison for nonviolent drug offenders. This is sensible because locking up all drug offenders is neither feasible nor effective.

Hawaii's prisons are severely overcrowded, with the result that hundreds of inmates have been sent to mainland institutions. And without treatment inmates have little chance of rehabilitation.

In a meeting with Star-Bulletin editors, the governor cited the 1996 approval in Arizona of a ballot measure that contained such provisions. The Arizona program has had success in reducing recidivism.

The governor said the state should develop a system of halfway houses for drug offenders where they could live while undergoing treatment and serving their sentences.

To pay for such a program, Cayetano said he may propose raising taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

The governor has supported reductions in income taxes and in the pyramiding of the general excise tax in the interest of stimulating the economy.

Raising taxes on alcohol and tobacco would appear to be inconsistent with the tax-reduction policy, but so-called sin taxes can serve a special purpose in discouraging usage.

Moreover, community-based treatment programs are essential to dealing with the drug problem. Locking offenders up without treatment doesn't work and is far more expensive. Paying a bit more in tax for beer and cigarettes should be an acceptable tradeoff.


Sonia Gandhi

Bullet The issue: The Italian-born widow of an assassinated leader is running for a seat in the Indian Parliament.
Bullet Our view: Her bid for office will test the voters' allegiance to the Gandhi dynasty.

INDIAN politics took an improbable turn when Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born heiress to an Indian political dynasty, filed papers as a Congress Party candidate for Parliament in a series of elections that begins Sept. 5. If she is elected and her party achieves a majority in Parliament, she could become prime minister -- the fourth in the Gandhi family.

In India, a candidate may run anywhere in the nation, and there was much speculation as to which district Mrs. Gandhi would choose. Last Wednesday, after a series of feints, she showed up about 1,100 miles from New Delhi, filing her papers in Bellary, a South Indian district where the Congress Party has never lost the seat.

Her opponents in the Bharatiya Janata Party were ready. Within minutes after she filed her papers, Sushma Swaraj, a former chief minister of New Delhi, arrived in Bellary to file for the same seat. Mrs. Swaraj quickly honed in on Mrs. Gandhi's foreign birth as a target for criticism.

Sonia Gandhi, 52, was raised as a Catholic in a small town near Turin. She became an Indian citizen in 1983, 15 years after she married Rajiv Gandhi, grandson of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and son of another prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

In 1984 her mother-in-law was assassinated by her own guards. Rajiv was killed by a suicide bomber in 1991.

After her husband's death, Sonia Gandhi withdrew from public life. But in 1997 she agreed to campaign for the Congress Party, which was losing its following.

Dressed in saris, she read short speeches with the Hindi words typed out in Roman script. The crowds accepted her as a brave widow with a magic name. Recognizing her popularity, the party elected her president last year.

Now Mrs. Gandhi, who had begged her husband not to enter public life, has plunged into the fray by becoming a candidate herself despite her foreign birth.

Indians would be better off dispensing with the Gandhi dynasty, but many still cling to it. Sonia Gandhi is testing whether that allegiance can be transferred to a woman from Italy.


Hikers rescued

Bullet The issue: Two Danish women were rescued after eight days stranded on a cliff in Windward Oahu.
Bullet Our view: Their experience underlines the need for adequate preparation and prudent decisions by hikers.

THE rescue of two Danish women tourists who disappeared on a hike in Windward Oahu can be credited to the perseverance of the searchers, the stamina and courage of the women, and a large measure of good luck.

To survive for eight days, for the most part without food or water, huddled together on a sheer cliff above Kahana Valley and walk out in such good condition, as Anitta Winther and Marianne Konnerup did, was remarkable. But their experience could have ended otherwise if they had not been found yesterday.

It was only a few months ago that hikers to Sacred Falls were killed without warning in a devastating rock slide. Fortunately, the latest hiking emergency had a happy ending.

The young women's ordeal should not be taken as reason to avoid hiking. This is a healthy, enriching activity. But precautions must be taken to prevent disaster. Even experienced hikers can get into trouble if they become careless.

The state should consider posting warning signs at the more dangerous trails. That might have kept the two Danish women from their plight.

But there is no substitute for adequate preparation and prudent decisions on the trail.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

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