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Letters to the Editors

Prisoner rehabilitation is a failure

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 4, 2000

Re: Poor rehabilitation causes criminals to return to jail, by Neal R. Peirce, May 28.

Historical facts seem to disagree with this article. Poor rehabilitation does not necessarily cause criminals to return to jail because even the so-called good ones don't work. Some 150 years of experimentation in criminal behavior modification experiments have been a failure for both the "law and order" and the "bleeding heart" factions. Now and then a program shows promise but only temporarily.

Criminals see it as a game and the experimenters see it as career enhancing, but the rest of us are relegated to be standby inventories of potential victims.

Two time-proven recidivism stoppers that most effectively curtail the billions of dollars and millions of victims used by criminals are prison and old age. Criminals in prison tend to not victimize law abiding citizens, and old criminals tend to commit fewer crimes. They are not very charming, not very career building and don't offer a whole lot of money to spend with the psychobabble group. But they work.

The only known successful crime-fighting program carries the slogan of: "If you do the crime, you'll do the time -- and we mean it!"
-- Douglas Fairbanks, St. Petersburg

Immigration overload

Re: Britain's anti-immigrant shame, editorial, May 26.

I see no shame on Britain. I see shame on your editorial. I don't understand your philosophy on worldwide immigration, when right here in our country recent polls show that two-thirds of our people prefer a reduction in immigration.

Just look at how the Arizona ranchers are fighting the immigrants that cross their land and how ABC's nightly news shows how our Coast Guard has to fight off the rebellious Cubans who try to illegally reach our Florida shores.

The developed countries of the world are saying, "Enough is enough" to the peoples of the Third World countries. Perhaps you will get the message when the immigrants come to live at your house.
-- C.J. Bjornberg, Clearwater

A personal attack

Re: Vouchers blur lines of power, May 28.

In this column by Martin Dyckman, he resorts to calling me names and insinuating that the Florida Department of Education has somehow made me its spokesperson for the Opportunity Scholarship program. Among other suspicions invoked to support to his theme, Dyckman asserts that the redesigned DOE Web site has a link to Floridians for School Choice -- but not to those who oppose that idea. Yet one easily finds there a link to the PTA, one of the parties to the lawsuit intended to stop families from receiving Opportunity Scholarships. There are probably others, but what difference does it make?

In seeking to diminish me in the eyes of his readers, Dyckman instead diminishes himself and does nothing to make his own case. Attacking the person who makes an argument leaves the argument itself untouched. It's both wrong and irrational. I learned that in school. I taught it to my public school students in West Virginia. I admired it in my university students at Cambridge. Throwing mud is something we should put behind us as toddlers -- or by the end of grade school at the very latest, wouldn't you say?
-- Patrick J. Heffernan, Ph.D., president, Floridians for School Choice, Miami

Foundation responds

The debate about the adequacy of current federal law concerning the required annual payout by private foundations is healthy testimony to the important role foundations play in American society today. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation welcomes the debate. As proof, the foundation's board agreed in 1998 to increase the amount it allocates for grants, an amount in excess of IRS requirements.

But the debate needs to be factually grounded. Portions of your addition to the discussion (Foundations resist pressure to give more, St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 14) were not.

Despite what the Times erroneously reported, Knight Foundation met all IRS standards requiring a minimum 5 percent payout of its assets in 1998 and again in 1999. We did not miss the required 5 percent payout in 1998 as the Times article reported, and we are not subject to IRS tax penalties in 1999, as the Times article incorrectly surmised with the help of an anonymous IRS source. We have shared conclusive proof of this with the Times.
-- Hodding Carter III, president and CEO, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Miami

Elian's fate

Re: A Victory for parents, editorial, June 2.

The headline should be "a win for Fidel Castro and a defeat for Elian's dead mother." The editorial mentions that Elian Gonzalez will "go home with his father, Juan Miguel, and return to his life in Cuba."

What life?

When he is 11, he will be taken from his father -- after the age of 11 the father has no rights to his son. He will be a ward of the state. He will be indoctrinated into Communism.

If Elian returns to Cuba, he will be going to a country that violates human rights. He will have lost his mother's dying wishes to have freedom.
-- Ben Alexander, St. Petersburg

Seek new guidelines

Re: Broadening the Good Book's appeal, May 28.

One marvels, reading this article, that people cling so obstinately to an ancient collection of myths, tales, poetry and bits of old, old myths. But then, the Bible, written by many men at various times, is purported to be "the word of God."

Today it's apparently necessary to tinker with God's word, to rearrange parts or to emphasize parts in order to make it palatable for athletes, people of color, teenagers, people in recovery -- and especially women. The latest effort is a Bible especially for African-American women.

How much simpler it would be to drop the whole thing, to find, with the help of reason and understanding, guidelines elsewhere. Humankind has come far over many, many dusty centuries. Not only has it evolved marvels of technology, it has also opened up wonderful vistas of knowledge concerning our planet -- and beyond. We are learning more and more about our place in the universe.

Why are we looking back, desperately trying to make relevant such old beliefs, outworn concepts, dim, uncertain history? Why, unless on the part of some, there is money to be made from this desperation? Because there is magic in the word "bestseller"?
-- Abigail A. Martin, Valrico

Same old issues

Due to the lack of quality material on the tube, my wife and I threw in an old tape, titled The Candidate. This 1972 release depicted two fictitious individuals vying for the Senate; they were debating current issues -- air and water pollution, unbridled development, abortion, the homeless, busing, segregation, crime and unemployment.

Our question is: What the heck have our elected officials been doing for the last three decades? We feel that the taxpayers and voters are entitled to an answer!
-- Ken and Jaye Willas, Dunedin

Decisions, decisions

What a dilemma!

Which presidential candidate should I vote for? Frick or Frack?
-- Paula Xenakis, Holiday

More information, please

I have heard that a highly qualified man named Dr. John Hagelin is running for president of the United States. He is a candidate of the Natural Law Party. Everything I have heard (by word of mouth only) has sounded fabulous to me. As a voter, I am highly concerned that I have not had the opportunity to be fully informed about this available choice. Why haven't the media been giving this candidate and the Natural Law Party the comprehensive coverage that it deserves?

I do not feel represented by either the Republican or the Democratic parties. What little I have heard about the Natural Law Party has inspired me deeply. I want to know more. Please begin comprehensive coverage on this political party immediately!

I understand that a lady named Josette Green in running for U.S. Congress from District 10, (Pinellas County) on the Natural Law Party ticket. Who is she? What does she have to say about the issues that affect our nation, our state and our district?

I truly wish to be able to make an informed choice in November when I vote. Only the media can make that choice readily available to all voting citizens.
-- Frankye Brooks, Pinellas Park

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