Brett Wagner's diatribe against the war on drugs ["You Can't Help Drug Users by Jailing Them," op-ed, Dec. 29] begs a couple of questions.

One of the few things I remember from the sociology course I took in college was the principle that punishment for crimes should be certain, swift and severe. Wagner's article touched only on the third. The threat of going to jail worked powerfully in the neighborhood where I grew up. Drugs were available in my junior high and high schools, but an appreciation for the severity of the punishment--generated by my parents, their friends and seeing a few classmates carted off by police--convinced me and many of my friends to stay off drugs.

My experience thus leads me to ask: Shouldn't the consequences remain severe if the intent is to prevent use?

--Clayton Hays

In response to Brett Wagner's op-ed about the war on drugs:

First, the use of illegal drugs is, well, illegal.

Second, as Wagner points out, the use can be deadly.

Wagner writes about the demise of his brother, an aspiring individual who took drugs and then died from that. He paid the ultimate price.

In theory, if Wagner's brother had been incarcerated early, possibly he would be alive today.

--Alan Cox