Letters

From the week of January 3, 2002

Kids on the Skids

Time bomb: Amy Silverman's article "The Kids Are Still Not Alright" (December 20) featured my son's physical assault (documented by hospital medical records) at the hands of an Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections staff member. The only correction I would make to that article is to the statement: "Scott is seriously mentally ill." My comment regarding my son was that "he has serious mental issues" -- there is a difference.

Imagine being a mother and every time you get a call from ADJC wondering if this will be the time they tell you your son has died under mysterious circumstances -- perhaps an alleged suicide or a takedown gone wrong. My letter to the governor was an attempt to make her, as the chief executive officer of the state, aware of the situation, and to put those "in-charge" at ADJC on notice that I am a mother who cares and doesn't intend to let these matters be quietly swept under the rug.

Non-offending staff are concerned as well. It was a staff member of this sort who suggested to my son that I should read Amy's articles. I believe many staff members are not forthcoming with information for fear of retaliation. I would like to mention that I have had contact with many competent, caring, and helpful staff/professionals employed by the ADJC, but it is definitely time for a weeding-out and accountability campaign -- from administrators who don't follow appropriate procedures, [to staffers who commit] physical assaults on juveniles [or] supply juveniles with various types of contraband, to a licensed professional soliciting sexual favors, further victimizing juveniles, many of whom already have a history of sexual abuse issues.

It seems that the situations I mentioned aren't being taken seriously because they involve juvenile delinquents, some with serious mental and/or abuse issues, that much of society wishes would just go away, and -- if things are allowed to continue -- it is just a matter of time until there is a fatality. The fact that these youth exit these institutions with more problems/issues than they arrived with reflects a need for juvenile corrections reform. Therefore, it is my opinion, given the information at hand, that ADJC is, in many cases, just preparing these youth for adult corrections.

I don't underestimate the difficulty of the job ADJC has to perform. To say that these youth are high-maintenance is definitely an understatement. I operate a charter school that specializes in at-risk students -- many of whom have already been in the system or on probation. Therefore, I am no stranger to the arduous tasks involved. Yet, through my experiences with my son, I have developed a heart for these kids. It is beyond my comprehension that a youth could be assaulted, as my son was, without charges being filed by the institution against the abuser. People are only human and tend to make mistakes, but I find fault in a system that doesn't own up to its mistakes and take immediate corrective action. Obviously, someone is not doing their job. Maybe they would be more vigilant if it were their child that was incarcerated.

The governor's deputy chief of staff, George Weisz, assured me that Governor Hull and Director [David] Gaspar do not tolerate such behavior, but the facts seem to tell a different story. I am trying to refrain from final judgment until I have received documentation about the corrective actions that will be taken regarding my son's physical and mental abuse at the hands of staff while in ADJC.

Thank you, Amy Silverman, for being the voice of the youths that are being mistreated at the ADJC. Your articles have hit the nail on the head -- keep hammering it home until the powers that be are forcedto take notice and make needed changes. I intend to be right there with you, because it is quite apparent that those currently "running the show" aren't handling these situations with the urgency that they demand.

Gail Edwards, M. Ed.
Cottonwood

Youthful indiscretions: Jane Hull is allowing the creation of a homegrown version of Afghanistan children. What is happening is the incubation of the same types of monsters -- children who have had their souls so violated and degraded that no other outcome can be expected. If the state thinks that this can go on without consequences, all who allow it need to be thrown out of office because we as a society will eventually pay a heavy price.

It seems to me that there should be more outrage from citizens than there is, and the fact that there isn't is just as disturbing. There is so much complacency toward the obvious disintegration of many of our youth today. It reminds me of something Charlie Manson said years ago, something like: "The fire you see in my eyes today will set fire to your cities tomorrow."

Kathryn McElroy
Phoenix

Harpooned

We should have looked it up: As a professor of biology, trained in ecology, I've followed your articles on the gray whale ("Crying Whale," Jill Stewart and Michael Lacey, November 22), subsequent letters from readers, and your follow-up ("Hold On a Minute!" Jill Stewart, December 13) with interest. I must, however, clarify a popular misconception, which Stewart's subtitle, "Ecologists are still trying to spin their phony 'Save the Whale' campaign," unfortunately perpetuates.

"Ecologist" is not equivalent to "environmentalist," nor is ecology the same as environmentalism. Ecology is a scientific field of study and inquiry of the relationship of organisms, populations and species to their surroundings. Ecology is a science, and ecologists are professional scientists with advanced graduate degrees from major research universities, with their own scientific societies and organizations (e.g., The Ecological Society of America, http://www.esa.org). Ecology is a major part of any college undergraduate curriculum in the life sciences, just as is physiology or genetics. Other professional fields use "environmental" as a modifier, such as environmental biology or environmental law, but there is no professional or scientific field of simply "environmentalism."

Alternately, environmentalists are advocates and activists, and often for personal, ethical or religious reasons. Whereas many professional ecologists are also environmentalists (as I am), simply because we witness firsthand loss of species diversity, degradation of habitats, introduction of invasive species, and human alterations of ecosystems, the reverse is not often true. Most "environmentalists" are not ecologists and are not scientists.

Herein lies much of the problem. Professional ecologists, such as Paul Dayton, whose international scientific reputation is beyond reproach, have rendered an opinion based on careful study. The findings were based upon scientific and ecological methods and therefore unbiased. Yet environmental activists (note, not ecologists) are unwilling to accept the results. The bottom line here is that environmental decisions must be based on good science; anything less erodes the credibility of environmentalists (I include myself here, and I suspect Paul Dayton would as well). There are too many other, and more important, environmental issues than gray whales in this lagoon, which are indeed grounded in basic ecological science, to waste one's credibility here.

The heated letters proclaiming that development of the Mitsubishi site can't possibly be compatible with gray whales recalled one of my own experiences. A student of mine presented the results of her scientific study at a recent ASU research symposium. Her results showed that cattle grazing in meadows on the Mogollon Rim increased plant diversity. An environmentally concerned passerby read the poster and decried, "This simply can't be, cattle grazing is always bad for plants" and stormed away. Never mind that: one, the study was scientifically sound and objective; two, other studies support this same finding; and three, the details of the study indicated that some native plant species were indeed adversely affected by grazing.

Unfortunately, some environmentalists are willing to suspend objectivity for their personal convictions and beliefs. Let's hope that good science wins out over personal beliefs. Without it, we stand little chance in solving our increasingly severe and complex environmental problems.

Stan Faeth
Professor and Associate Chair
Department of Biology
Arizona State University

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