VOICES ON A PARK BENCH : 'Jail Won't Work; You Can Get Dope in Jail'

Times Staff Writer

On a chilly evening, a gaunt crack cocaine addict nicknamed Flaco sits, tugging at the filthy green blanket covering his thin frame . He fires up a cigarette before speaking. His words are excerpted from an interview with Times staff writer Darrell Dawsey.

Legalize drugs? They want to legalize drugs? That would be the worst thing they could ever do, man. That would be stupid, really stupid. Those people in Washington don't know what this stuff can do. One hit and you're hooked. It's no joke. People who smoke this can't put it down. You can't legalize this. Do you want the mechanic working on your plane smoking this? Do you want to be on the road with a truck driver who has been smoking this?

This s--- ruins lives. It messed up mine--and that's for real.

I used to do a lot of things. I used to install burglar alarms, drive a truck, paint. I had money, man. I was living with my second wife and my two kids in a condo.

Now they don't want me around. I don't want to be around them anymore, either. I don't want to hurt my kids anymore.

I just stay in the park and do what I have to do to survive. I ask for money; I sell dope. Whatever. It's not like that's what I want to do, but I'm so messed up off this (crack) that I can't go get a job. Who's going to give me a job looking like this?

I can make some money during the day, but I'll smoke it all before the day's over. That's why I make money--to smoke.

That's the way it is. I get my hit first. People ask me to give them some, but nobody gets their hit before Flaco. It's like that morning cup of coffee, you know.

It's crazy, but that's life here. This park is my home now, man. I don't know if I could leave here. I could try but, sometimes, I don't think I want to.

Yeah, I'm afraid, but what can I do? I can't get out. If I could, you know what I'd do? What I want to do? What I would like more than anything right now would be to get a hotel room, take a hot shower and watch some TV. Oh, and some food, too. A good meal.

It trips me out to think that people are talking about legalizing this. They need more education and rehabilitation. Enforcement ain't doing s---. Sending people to jail won't work. You can get dope in jail.

Look, they've been talking about enforcement for the longest time, but you still have just as many people selling and using drugs. Why? Because people need money and people think they want to get high. Even my mother is selling drugs. She's selling not too far from (MacArthur Park). When mothers sell dope, you've got a real problem and legalizing dope won't solve it.

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