`Boot-Camp Discipline' and Literacy Skills

The article ``Hardship, Help For Drug Dealers,'' Nov. 10, on shock incarceration, states that two-thirds of the inmates go straight after the 90 days of boot-camp discipline and hard labor. I wonder whether some of the techniques designed to make men out of these youths don't cause more problems in the long run. For example, the officers severely shamed the young men's bodies. Most of these men grew up in abusive homes where they internalized heavy amounts of shame, which in turn make them more anti-social. It is one thing to shame a failure to put out effort. It is another to shame physique or looks.

What effort is made in this program to find out if the men are illiterate? So many men become criminals because they can not read or write and therefore cannot find work. Grueling physical work and strong discipline are important and necessary, but why can't they be combined with building appropriate self-esteem and literacy skills? Hamilton B. Brown, Albuquerque, N.M.

Israel on the hot seat The opinion-page column ``Bush's Silence on Mideast: A Clear Message,'' Nov. 7, claims that if the discussions between Israel, Egypt, and the US stalls, ``the big loser [will be] President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.''

If fact, Mr. Mubarak has risked nothing, and he is likely to come out ahead no matter what happens. If the negotiations produce a Palestinian state, Mubarak will be hailed as the hero of the Palestinians. If the negotiations fail, Mubarak will be hailed as a peacemaker whose initiative was blocked by Israeli stubbornness.

It is Israel which is taking a big risk agreeing to negotiate with the Palestinians, for Israel's borders are under discussion and Israel may have to live with a Palestine Liberation Organization state as its next-door neighbor. Betram Korn, Jr., Philadelphia, Committee for Accuracy, in Middle East Reporting in America

Racial politics The editorial ``Color-Free Politics,'' Nov. 10, has an obvious irony. It claims that the influence of race continues to fade in the electoral process.

L. Douglas Wilder, this editorial states, received ``nearly all the black vote.'' How can you claim, then, that race was not important in this election? If Mr. Wilder received nearly all the white vote, the media would have taken this to be an event with clearly racist overtones. Yet blacks vote as a block for a black candidate and the Monitor declares this a victory for color-free politics. How condescending. Nicholas Sanchez, Framingham, Mass.

Minimum wage and the market The editorial ``Pay Raise for the Poor,'' Nov. 6, argues that government can properly decide a minimum that any worker may charge for his services. If the particular job on which he is working cannot justify the new minimum, the government insists he be fired. Apparently the Monitor thinks this an acceptable invasion of a person's rights. I disagree.

Please consider that we have a complex economy. In the marketplace there is a cost beyond which customers will not pay for any given good or service. There is a cost for an employer beyond which it will pay him to automate or change procedures in such a way that a job no longer exists.

While we seldom know what this cost may be, the market will eventually determine it. The US government does not have the ability to know the result of such legislation. Robert W. Merritt, Kalamazoo, Mich.

Spiritual healing challenged Regarding the article ``California Couple Sentenced in Spiritual Healing Case,'' Nov. 6: How heart breaking to read about a Christian Science couple being sentenced as criminals in their choice of care for their child. Equally heart breaking is that such prosecution is happening in the United States - a nation built by people escaping religious persecution. And when so many parts of the world are finding freedom from oppression, such sentencing is especially ironic.

I can not understand why the judge would sentence the couple to perform activities that go directly against their religion. No matter how grievous this may be for the couple, it is truly horrendous for our concept of freedom. Anita Chaney, Bakersfield, Calif.

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