March 3, 1996

Dear Mr. Olsen -

     You don't know me, but after reading your article in the Des 
Moines Register, I felt compelled to write you a letter.
     I wanted to let you know that you are not alone in your 
views, and as mcuh as I have read and studied ways to deal with 
the drug problem in America, and especially in Iowa, I have yet 
to come across a solution as workable as the one you suggest.
     As you have probably already noticed, this letter is coming 
to you from a prison.  That's right, a prison.  I sincerely hope 
you are not put off by that, but I could certainly understand if 
you were.  Many people in this state are.  Society in general 
considers us scum, even though we are every bit as human as the 
next person.
     I personally, was sent to prison on a drug-related charge 
stemming from a drug deal gone bad.  I have fought drug addiction 
most of my adult life, and more often than not, I have lost.  I 
am now 26, and trying to win this war.
     I wanted to write to tell you that you, and people like you, 
through letters such as the one the Register printed (a fine 
liberal paper), not only serve to inform and enlighten the 
general public, but also the few drug-addicted offenders that 
take the time to read it, or, even worse, are able to understand 
     Through your efforts you serve a greater purpose that you 
may not even be aware of.  I applaud you for the time you took in 
drafting your letter, and in your attempt to sling the noose, if 
you will, of a problem that may not be solvable.
     But looking back on my own shattered life, the pain I've 
caused, the damage I've done, I see in you a hope not only for 
myself, but for other young people who may destroy themselves 
such as I have.
     William Faulkner once said that "it is any man's right to 
destroy himself, so long as he does it to and of himself."  I 
wonder ....
     Anyhow, Mr. Olsen, I just wanted to thank you.  Since I 
couldn't do it in person, a letter was my best shot.  Thank you 
for the time you took in reading my letter, and I wish you the 
best of luck in the future.  Peace.
     Johnnie Clements
     Iowa Medical & Classification Center
     Box A
     Oakdale, IA 52319