Letters for September 26, 2013

Invest in prison reform

Re “Sick of prison talk” by Danielle Ratkowski (SN&R Letters, September 19):

Danielle Ratkowski's rant on prison screams for response. She suggests that people not look to the government for personal answers to their problems. She simultaneously suggests that schools are the place where children should learn these values. Last time I checked, the schools were part of the government—hello!

She also says she's used welfare. I presume welfare provided her with a “hand up” when she needed it. Yet she would deny prisoners similar assistance when they need it? She says she has relatives in the system (prison or jail, I assume). Does she have no understanding or empathy for the lack of rehab offered to people incarcerated? Does she not believe that someone is sentenced in order to pay their debt to society, and at the end of that sentence, the debt is repaid?

Judgment must end at some point, and what we have in place now is endless judgment. Felons are automatically screened out for most employment, so what are they to do? You can say you don't care, but don't come whining to me about people on welfare and food stamps, or who are homeless and committing crimes. Your judgment is creating this by eliminating them from decent work!

Most ex-cons would choose never to go back to prison if they were afforded a chance to earn a decent living. But for many, they don't know any way to do that outside of crime. Ask the California system leadership: Juvenile justice is focused on rehab, while adult is focused on punishment.

Our state needs to decide if it likes paying for the revolving door in the prisons or if it can climb down from its self-righteous pedestal long enough to offer alternatives. You want less homelessness? You want less crime? You want lower taxes related to law enforcement? Fund rehab, training, mentoring, internships, etc., and you will find that 90 percent of the “criminals” will reform and become good neighbors and community members.

Ben Bannister


Need government funding to survive

Re “Sick of prison talk” by Danielle Ratkowski (SN&R Letters, September 19):

The pain and sorrow that saturate Danielle Ratkowski’s cri de coeur are plain evidence of the morally hazardous fallout radiating from our class-war society and overpressurized prison system.

I get the feeling she’s gotten stuck cleaning up some toxic messes that weren’t hers. But cause and effect are easily confused. There’s no denying that thinking twice is a good way to stay out of trouble—like out of Iraq. And not thinking has many causes, such as lack of education from a young age. I am wondering: How young are the kids who need to know “it isn’t someone else’s responsibility to take care of them”?

The truth is that we all rely on government funding to survive. I’d be toast without my public education in California’s formerly not-underfunded school system. And there are many other basic things for which we rely on government, like water and other utilities, roads, public health, and so forth.

Muriel Strand