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Healthy Till Proven Innocent

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We've known for years that drug-resistant staphylococcus (MRSA) has established itself outside of hospitals and in our communities, so it should be no surprise jails have emerged as incubators that will propagate infections in the communities where detainees are released ["Releasing the Disease" by Kelly Virella, October 11]. It's also little surprise Todd Stroger's minions didn't see fit to support a funded study to combat MRSA that will eventually cost much more, as long as someone else foots the bill.

I applaud Dr. Robert Daum's effort to bring a little health science into the dismal world of correctional science. But I am disturbed and suspicious every time I hear public officials qualify (justify?) health care for (insert your choice of undeserving poor) by claiming it will help another, more deserving group; "The reason I care about that is because I care about the kids," he says.

Perhaps, but shall we allow jail inmates to contract life-threatening diseases if there are no "kids" to catch their cooties?

The answer is no. First, MRSA is not a fitting punishment for a drug offender or traffic scofflaw or anyone. Second, they are detainees, innocent under law. There is also a fundamental legal right to health care civilized countries provide citizens whose liberty has been taken. Anyone who disagrees will adjust their perspective by spending one night--one night--ill in jail.

Civilized, humane treatment for all our people just happens to be good public health policy. When will we have the courage to simply say so?

Howard Wait

Rogers Park

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