Letters

Jail Berate
I have recently learned about the terrible conditions at Maricopa County jails. A very good friend of my family died recently because of the treatment he received at Tent City. Our friend had been suffering from liver problems for many years, which, unfortunately, had been brought on by his own alcoholism. He was scheduled to serve time at Tent City for DUI in May. That was the last time any friends or family saw him alive.

Because of his weakened state, he contracted strep throat in the germ-infested encampment about a week into his stay. To our knowledge, he was given no medical treatment whatsoever until almost a week later, when he could not be awakened. At this point, the jailers realized he was close to death, so they sent him to Maricopa Medical Center, where he died less than two weeks later.

I have since read many articles about Maricopa County jails in back issues of New Times. These have helped me realize that my friend's was not an isolated case--in fact, it was far from it. I was disgusted to read about Scott Norberg, Jose Rodriguez, Eric Johnson, David Hoyle and Bart Davis, who were all mistreated at the hands of jail guards. Richard Post's case, however, was unbelievable! This man was a paraplegic who was thought to be so dangerous because of his need to urinate, he was removed from his wheelchair and placed in a restraining chair, then strapped down so tightly that his neck was broken. What could this man have done to deserve such treatment? Well, he was rude to a bar owner, and was caught with a gram of marijuana. Amazing!

The stories you published about Joe's jail, along with my personal experience, have enraged me to the point where I feel something must be done. I realize that I am only 11 years old, and have no political power whatsoever, but I feel there must be something I can do to make a difference. Maybe if you publish this letter, it might inspire others to write even more letters, and Joe Arpaio would be forced to listen.

Nicole Hoyt
Mesa

I have read the last article I will read by the incredibly ignorant, whiny idiot Barry Graham! Mr. Graham, with "High Goon" you have sunk to an all-time low on the so-called "knowledge" (or lack thereof) you claim to have about any subject. You mention in the article that an outrageous percentage of those "bad guys" in jail have not been convicted of anything . . . poor people who can't afford bail. I have seen many poor and rich people who have gotten away scot-free or with a slap on the wrist, including those who never see jail because of plea-bargaining and probation, etc.

I don't know where you get off blowing away Sheriff Joe. You are high if you think that we need some wishy-washy goober in there as sheriff. If anything, we need more people like him running this country and making corrections decisions at the state and federal levels. If you would like to know why we need so many jails, do the math, buddy: More people end up going in than coming out. Also take a look at the frightening rate at which government is building prisons and jails--and you figure out why there are many other counties in the hole because they're having to lock up offenders. You could also do a story comparing "Third World" treatment of inmates in other facilities. Three squares and health care . . . must be rough!

Do you have any idea exactly how the criminal justice system works? Well, I do, because I've worked in several positions within the system, including probation, in which I was directly involved with the court process daily. I think the greatest story you could write for the otherwise excellent New Times is to spend one week or month through every level of the court process as a defendant and an inmate. How about spend a week in the jail with one of your "innocent" cellmates? I guarantee you'll change your views.

Yes, the sometimes tragic abuse of inmates does exist, and there do exist the true innocents, but try a story on how many lawsuits get filed a day because an inmate is not provided Reeboks or, for God's sake, Playboy. I'd rather Sheriff Joe spend my tax money any day locking up more inmates who deserve it than letting them all read Hustler. Who do you think pays for their "right" to have that, Mr. Graham? Maybe the recidivism rate hasn't changed and so-called "rehabilitation" doesn't work, but that only means that we need more people like Arpaio at the top who are willing to hold these idiots accountable. We need to make a change as voters and get rid of these people who think everyone must be a "victim" of everything so that they can have three, four, five or more chances. People should be responsible for what they do, Mr. Graham, wrong or right!

Nancy Alspach
Mesa

POW Wow
The story on Earl Hopper Jr. ("Missing Earl Jr.," Amy Silverman, July 16) was an excellent piece of work. I wish that more newspapers would take that kind of interest. I have also had the opportunity to see some of what your paper has done on John McCain--again, more excellent work. Job well done. My hat is off to you.

Jim Dundon
via Internet

Thank you, Amy Silverman, for your article about Earl P. Hopper Sr. (and Jr.). My family and theirs were among the first to buy property near 31st Avenue and Camelback in the early '50s. (We've all since relocated.) Earl Jr. was four to six years older than me, but I do remember him and his brothers (one of whom is my age, 50).

I continue to wear Earl Jr.'s POW/MIA bracelet, and when asked (unfortunately, seldom), "Who is that? Or, "What is that?" I say, "He was a neighbor of mine."

I was present three or four years ago when one of Earl Sr.'s sons (a retired officer) swore his sons into the military. Afterward, the young man came up to me, saw the bracelet and said, "Is that our uncle?" I felt both choked up and old at that point.

Part of me says to Colonel Hopper, "Let go." But another says, "Go for it." I wish all of the Hoppers every kindness and courtesy and hope our government will give them satisfaction and peace of mind--someday.

Bruce Stenhouse
Phoenix

Germ of Truth
I am writing this letter in regard to the July 16 article "TB or Not TB?" by Patti Epler. I am pleased that New Times was interested enough in this problem to interview me and write about it. I do, however, wish to clarify some medical information so as not to confuse readers of the article. Ms. Epler wrote that I stated that the drug INH causes liver cancer. I do not believe I ever said that, and I certainly agree with Dr. Lee Reichman when he stated in the article that INH is not known to cause liver cancer. Further in the article I stated that it was odd that not a single Phoenix firefighter with a positive TB skin test had developed an active case of TB. Dr. Reichman commented that this was not odd if everyone had taken INH to prevent active TB. Actually, only about half the firefighters with a positive TB skin test had ever taken INH, so it is still odd that not one has developed active TB. The high number of positive TB skin tests in Phoenix firefighters is still a problem and an unsolved mystery. More research should lead to a solution.

Richard Gerkin, M.D., medical director
Phoenix Fire Department Health Center

While Dr. Gerkin's bird-poop theory on the unusually high rate of positive TB skin tests among Phoenix firefighters may seem rather quirky, it does pose a more broad and important question of the efficacy of TB diagnostics. The TB skin test had been around for decades, yet its inaccuracy continues to be ignored. Catching fewer than two-thirds of TB-positive cases, the test leaves many TB victims in the dark until they become symptomatic. In the meantime, it allows an infectious patient to spread the airborne disease to 10 to 15 more people each year. On the other hand, anyone who has ever had a tuberculosis vaccination, which is also of variable effectiveness, will test positive to a skin test, deeming this diagnostic technique completely worthless.

The answer to whether 20 percent of the Phoenix Fire Department had TB lies not in exploring different types of mycobacterium for bird poop or water, but investing our resources to create better diagnostic methods and tools. Countries worldwide, excluding the United States, seem to have realized the urgency of combating this plague and have committed to major TB control efforts. TB is the world's number one infectious killer, claiming three million lives each year. Technological advances must be made not only in diagnostics, but also better drugs and an effective vaccine. Multidrug-resistant TB, which is virtually impossible to cure, was present in only 13 states in 1991 but is now found in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

Not knowing whether people do or do not have TB has become a critical problem that needs to be solved soon. After all, how do you control something that you can't diagnose properly? In a matter of years, diagnostics may not be the only problem as the TB epidemic, deemed a global TB emergency by the World Health Organization four years ago, spreads on to our shores and across our borders.

Christoph Lee, project manager
Princeton Project 55 Inc.
Tuberculosis Initiative
Washington, D.C.

Your article "TB or Not TB?" raises too many questions.
First, you don't mention that a TB skin test can have a high rate of false positive results in a healthy population, especially if there is not uniform application of the testing procedure by experienced staff. Maybe we would be better off calling the TB test a diagnostic aid or indicator so as not to suggest that the test is even close to perfect.

Second, you state that Arizona has high TB rates because we have drug-resistant forms of the disease. There is no evidence to suggest that a drug-resistant germ spreads easier than a non-drug-resistant germ. Furthermore, the spread of TB is dependent upon prolonged exposure and is very unlikely to be passed on in an ambulance ride.

Third, you state that the number of positive tests slowed after the fire department increased ventilation and gave new masks to firemen. Just because events happen sequentially does not guarantee a cause-and-effect relationship. Good science requires evidence and not guesswork.

The appropriate headline for your story should not have come from Hamlet; it should have been called "Much Ado About Nothing."

David Feuerherd
Phoenix

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