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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 18, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Law and order

Warehousing offenders unlikely to strike again

John Carlson [“Don’t weaken ‘three strikes’ law,” Feb. 14] made some thoughtful points in his guest column opposing the removal of second-degree robbery as a strike. But he overlooked important demographic information.

Violent crimes are rarely committed by women or older men; perpetrators are predominantly young men and, increasingly, juveniles. By the time a habitual offender is just a few years into his third-strike (lifetime) incarceration, he is probably past his violent-crime-prone years. The state is warehousing individuals who are both unlikely to repeat their violent actions and more likely to require costly medical care at taxpayer expense.

Do we truly believe large numbers of our fellow citizens are beyond any kind of redemption?

A more sensible and humane alternative would be to provide short sentences, intensive rehabilitation and post-release supervision for the first strike, then mandatory, 20-year-minimum sentences on the second strike.

Fewer innocents would be victimized, we would save taxpayer money on our penal system, and we would avoid declaring anyone irrevocably hopeless.

— Alex Myrick, Seattle

Bizarre details in homicide story

Murder is committed daily across the nation. When the circumstances leading up to or causing the death of the victim are bizarre, the case often makes national news. The relationship between the suspect/perpetrator and the victim, such as husband and wife, can be relevant, but there are always other details that go unmentioned.

One has to wonder why the personal history of Christine Newton-John in “Spouse ‘exercised to death’ ” [News, Feb. 15] was included. What does her being transgender have to do with the situation? Her occupation was not reported; her religion wasn’t reported; her race wasn’t reported.

Why was the fact that she was transgender included? If there is a reason, why was it also not mentioned that the husband was not transgender?

Had this non-relevant fact not been the case, would the article have made a point that the wife was heterosexual? I, for one, have never seen reference to that in other cases.

— Bill Dubay, Seattle

Managing the behavorial-change business

In “There is a smarter way to handle nation’s spiraling prison costs” [syndicated column, Feb. 15], Neal Peirce makes good economic sense that we must look for alternatives to imprisonment. I believe there also needs to be a significant shift in the values, beliefs and behaviors on the part of the staff in corrections institutions.

For seven years, I’ve worked across the country as a consultant in both state and federal corrections institutions. I work with wardens and train psychologists, treatment specialists and educators inside prisons. In that time, I have met way too many corrections employees who believe the men and women being sent to prison are there for punishment instead of as punishment.

This is more than a semantic difference.

There is a widespread perspective that corrections systems are in the safely-housing-of-prisoners business, instead of the behavioral-change business — the true business implied by the name “corrections.” Prison programs are evaluated on their success in lowering recidivism. But, prison programs do not exist in a vacuum inside prison walls.

Why not evaluate our prison institutions on the same standard of lowering recidivism?

Ninety-five percent of people in prison today have release dates. They will be sitting beside us as we commute to work on mass transit, behind us in line as we step up to buy our movie tickets and in the car in front of us as we drive down the freeway.

There is an opportunity to foster change for those incarcerated today. If we don’t, we’ll talk about public safety!

— Bill Thatcher, Seattle

Comments | More in crime/justice, Washington Legislature

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