The "treatment" of Gary Malakoff, the vice president's internist, for his substance abuse problem is shocking ["Internist's Relapse Into Drug Use Undetected," front page, July 8]. The neurologist who was supervising the internist's rehabilitation prescribed to Dr. Malakoff the drugs on which he was dependent.

That is outrageous but perhaps not as outrageous as the mandatory five-year prison sentence that the neurologist, if he were to be charged and convicted, would have to serve if H.R. 4547, pending in the House Judiciary Committee, is enacted. This is the bill, sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) and described in the July 7 Metro story "Drug Dealing Near D.C. Clinics Confirmed," that "will send a message [to dealers] that you can't sell drugs" where people are trying to get help.

In 1986 I helped the House Judiciary Committee write laws intended to send similar messages when Congress passed long, mandatory-minimum drug sentences. That was a terrible mistake. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told the American Bar Association last year, "In too many cases, mandatory minimum sentences are unwise and unjust."

Mr. Sensenbrenner's bill would not simply "send a message"; over time, it would pointlessly wreck thousands of lives.

ERIC E. STERLING

President

Criminal Justice Policy Foundation

Silver Spring