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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Today's Letters: There is help for ex-offenders
By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published September 23, 2007
Freedom: Day one Sept. 16, story
Anyone reading last Sunday's article would get a fairly good idea what inmates leaving jail or prison face. They are desperately trying to start their lives anew only to find their hopes for change slip from their grasp. However, it doesn't have to end up with the inmate being reincarcerated.
Missing from the article is the fact that both Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats and the county commissioners know that we just can't keep adding more beds to the jail. They have decided to become proactive, and the numbers prove that programs such as New Attitudes for men and Project Success for women keep inmates from committing new crimes.
But the programs don't stop there. The jail also provides the opportunity for inmates to pass a GED test and get a high school diploma, and holds numerous AA and NA meetings for those with alcohol or drug problems.
The jail also has ties to the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-Entry Coalition for aftercare. Some of the services we provide are help with obtaining employment, ID cards, health services, clothing and bus passes.
In fact, we will also be holding our Annual Showcase of Services on Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at PTEC St. Petersburg, where more than 40 social service agencies will be present to help ex-offenders and their families.
It is not necessary for Mike and all those out there to go it alone. There is help. All they need do is call us at (727) 328-3360.
Frank Kopczynski, chair, Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-Entry Coalition, Clearwater
Rereading Vietnam Sept. 16, story
I read Robert Kaplan's eloquent salute to America's centurion warrior class with mixed emotions. He illustrates the hard core of character that empowers courage and devotion to duty. But as the warrior-philosopher James Stockdale uttered during his vice presidential debate, "Who am I? Why am I here?", I wonder why he and his compatriots were not able to ask themselves those same questions about the various missions they were assigned to.
I asked myself these things one day in Vietnam when I was talking with an Army chaplain. Maybe it was the Star of David he was wearing, or maybe it was the elemental question he asked me: "Hi, what's your name?" I began to consider my role in that particular war, and after finishing my tour of duty in a dedicated manner, came home to join my brothers in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Morality and ethics as a duty belong to citizen-soldiers, not just to liberal-minded professional officers, to whom these essential qualifications should be germane. The missions to which we assign our courageous and brave young men and women demand prescience and scrutiny from the executive and Congress. We are better than Roman imperialists. The label "centurion" should not qualify for the warrior-elite in a healthy democracy.
Jim Willingham, St. Petersburg
I would like to thank Robert D. Kaplan for his article, Rereading Vietnam. I would also like to thank the St. Petersburg Times for publishing it.
After all these years, my heart remains with those who served.
David C. Cumming, captain, U.S. Army Reserve, Republic of Vietnam, 1967, Clearwater
Portraits from the Purple Hearts projectSept. 2, Perspective story
A war's futility
Nina Berman's photos and talks with the servicemen who had been wounded should awaken every American citizen to the futility and, yes, criminality of furthering this misbegotten war. The conflict - trumped up by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice and their cronies - has caused nothing but death, destruction and misery for thousands of Americans and their families.
The interview with Spc. Robert Acosta probably offered the words that many are just starting to realize as the utter truth. He told Berman:"... all the reasons we went to war, it just seems like they're not legit enough for people to lose their lives for and for me to lose my hand and use of my leg and for my buddies to lose their limbs." Amen.
John J. Hayes, World War II and Korea veteran, Hudson
Clean hands? Hardly Sept. 16, letter
No. 1 dung-slingers
In this letter, the writer would have us believe that the Republicans use tactics that are much worse than what the Democrats use. In reality, the most vicious and dishonest tripe comes from left-wing liberal bloggers. I can only assume that the writer has never heard of groups like MoveOn.org and Codepink, which have set the standard for political spin, trickery, lies and character assassination.
The writer also talks about marriage cheats like Newt Gingrich, but he fails to mention the name Clinton. Obliviously, if you don't speak about family values, it's perfectly okay to be a marriage cheat. At least Gingrich did not lie about his affair after the fact.
The truth is that both political parties throw dung hoping some of it will stick, but the Democrats and their special interest groups are second to none.
Louis Ciardulli, Safety Harbor
Of wondrous birds in flight and a planet in peril Sept. 16, Robyn Blumner column
Protect the planet
Thank you for the excellent commentary. The United States needs to take the lead on combating global warming. This is the perfect opportunity for the United States to begin to regain respect across the world. Our next president should set the priority of making the United States the protector of our planet's resources and future.
Having the most powerful military in the world means nothing if we continue to stand by while our natural resources are destroyed or permanently affected. Unfortunately, I doubt the will of the politicos in Washington to divorce themselves from their deep-pocketed campaign contributors.
I see the effects of our neglect and indifference every day when a normal high tide creeps into my back yard, inches higher than in did eight years ago. The time to act is now, not when Florida's coastal regions begin to flood.
Don Margeson, St. Petersburg
The recent feature examining the first day in the life of a prisoner upon his release from the county jail was extremely powerful and insightful. Shortly into the feature one can spot one reason for the high rate of recidivism among the convicted. The subject was provided no money, no job, no shelter, no program to assist him toward a new life - only a single bus token. It's almost an invitation to return to a life of crime.
Ironically, the PSTA does not provide bus transfers, so if those released have no funds of their own and need to transfer to a different bus to reach their destination they have no way to pay for the ride after using the single bus token they are provided.