Letters

Setting the US prison record straight

Your Aug. 18 article on the prevalence of exposure to imprisonment in the United States ("US notches world's highest incarceration rate") incorrectly advised readers that a study published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that the US has the highest incarceration level in the world - our report never offered such a finding. In fact, cross-national data show relatively similar probabilities of imprisonment in the US, England, and Canada for crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

While the article questions the relationship between imprisonment and crime reduction, the connection is a well-established principle. The National Academy of Sciences concluded that "there is unquestionably a direct incapacitative effect" of imprisonment on the levels of crime. Further, the article reflects a common misperception that prisons are populated with nonviolent, first-time offenders. To the contrary, BJS data indicate that approximately two-thirds of prisoners today have a current or past history of violence, and 8 in 10 have a record of convictions preceding the current imprisonment offense. Violence and repeat offending account for more than 90 percent all prison inmates - a finding that is consistent with the views of judges and legislators who revise, design, and apply these criteria to sentencing systems.

Our data indicate that the decision to imprison an offender is not made lightly; violence and repeat offending are the principal criteria underlying the decision, and I suspect most Americans agree that these factors should govern such a weighty decision.
Lawrence A. Greenfield
Washington
Director, Bureau of Justice Statistics,

US Department of Justice

Factions in feminism

Regarding the Aug. 26 column "In search of feminists": Elizabeth Nesoff implies that it is somehow unfeminist to choose to wear stilettos to work, or wear pink, or be a stay-at-home mom. I believe she is misguided. The feminist movement was about giving women the right to make their own choices and the respect they deserved for doing so.

In the 1950s, this may have meant wearing blue and going to work, and in the '60s, it may have meant wearing fewer undergarments, and shaving less. In today's world, however - where female CEOs often don uncomfortable, mannish blue suits just to gain respect - career women who are willing to take the plunge and wear pink to work are the real feminists. They don't feel they ought to be told what to wear. Just as no one is forcing men to stop wearing blue, I refuse to be forced to stop wearing pink.

It is true that many important issues still plague women, such as rape, harassment, battery, and pay scale. It is more important that women support each other in the struggle against those issues, rather than disapprove of their choices in shoe styles, colors, and careers.
Shimona Carvalho
San Diego

I applaud Elizabeth Nesoff for understanding the idea of living based on values. I haven't watched a beauty pageant for more than 20 years. Many young women today do not appreciate the war fought in this country by women to obtain the closer-to-equal standing women currently enjoy.

Living in the Southwest, I am shocked at the way many men still see themselves as "cowboys," expecting women to be waiting on the sidelines to serve them. Women's rights have come a long way, but are far from won. Cheers for those college students like Ms. Nesoff who firmly understand the meaning of feminism.
Barbara Milton
Truth or Consequences, N.M.

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