Brownie Points

Brown with envy: My sister (Kristen) was in Amanda Brown's Brownie troop -- in fact, my mom was the troop leader ("Legally Brown," Amy Silverman, October 30). We both went to The Wallace & Ladmo Show. To think that we both sat there hoping we would win the Ladmo bag when the whole thing was rigged from the start. The scandal!

Tonya Chapman Jones
Stillwater, Oklahoma

Under Lock and Key

The prison principle: Major kudos to Robert Nelson for his outstanding cover story "Clink!" (October 23). As a general rule, the more a state spends on prisons, the less that state will spend on education. As an example, Louisiana spends the most of any other state per capita on prisons and less than any other state per capita on education. On the other hand, Minnesota spent the most of any other state on education and less than any other state on prisons.

Prisons and education compete for the same limited tax dollars. Which is the better investment? Prisons or education?

Kirk Muse

Just say yes: As long as this country continues the "War on Drugs," as senseless a campaign as ever tried, the jails will continue to be crowded with minor offenders. The war is over, the government lost, let us end it. Let us put police back on traffic problems which are out of control. Back on foot patrol in the neighborhoods and keep them out of this endless drug enforcement. Later historians will catalogue and record the evils of the drug war like they did with Prohibition. From a voice crying in the wilderness who still hopes for a return to sensible law enforcement.

Robert Williams

Hindsight is 20/20: Your "Clink!" story should have been done 20 years ago when the insanity began. I liked what you said, however. What you didn't say is that the officials running the Arizona Department of Corrections have been some of the most corrupt in the state. I note the past scandals, i.e., Director James Ricketts, who resigned after $25 million slated for building prisons vanished during the 1980s, then the vehicle scam that was hushed up in the mid-1990s broke, and the inhumane treatment James Upchurch inflicted on the kids locked up in juvenile when he was there.

What happened to them? Nothing! That's what! For years ADOC has been a cash cow that has grown burdensome because it employs people who otherwise would be on welfare or in prisons themselves. The staff shortage is because ex-convicts cannot work for ADOC and there aren't enough non-ex-convicts left in the state for ADOC to employ.

Once ADOC used to raise and grow its own food. It used to make and use its own clothing and, had the private prison industry not been caught in a fraud scandal, ARCOR would have become ACI and would be turning a profit, which it never has. Meanwhile, the kids who would have had the programs in school that could have taught them something aside from the criminal activity they ended up learning are now just the age where they are entering the ADOC system and not college as they should have been.

Some of us have been warning about this trend for 20 years now and have been labeled bleeding hearts. Well, now we see what happens to a society that believes in spending more money on prisons than schooling and what happens when we think sending someone to prison to be warehoused is more important than sending them to college to become productive citizens.

Craig Martins

Pay now, or pay later: I really enjoyed your article. It baffles me how Governor Napolitano would propose a prison plan for $700 million (to house more nonviolent prisoners) being that a high percentage of our prison population is just that -- nonviolent -- when there is a tax reform being proposed to resolve the state's $800 million deficit, and the education budget has been cut. Why does Arizona as a state have a "tough on crime" attitude, when the majority of prisoners are first-time offenders? What happened to deterrence? Why not punish first-timers so that they are more prone not to re-commit these nonviolent crimes?

There is a cost associated with rehabilitation programs, and education, but the reality of the situation is they want more money either way, whether it is for rehabilitation, or more beds for the overpopulated incarceration system. The state should spend more money on education, rather than punishment, yet they fight for the same money. The reality of the whole situation is this: We need to look at cause and effect relationship.

If you educate, there is a better chance that the overpopulation in the prison system would be resolved -- fewer people going to prison. If you buy more beds, you are still faced with the fact that you most likely will be buying more beds in the future, and you are still faced with the question of "what are we doing wrong as a state that our people are being incarcerated, and our prisons are still overcrowding?"

Iris Ortega


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