The Human Beings Behind Prison Statistics

The article "State Incarceration Rates Falling," Sept. 18, glosses over the current sorry state of US jails, preferring to inform readers only of the numerical details of "some prison populations" that "may finally be easing."The author mentions that "if the trend holds, it could ease overcrowding that in most systems has reached dangerous levels." He fails to explain what the current "dangerous levels" mean for the hundreds of thousands of human beings warehoused in this country's prisons. If not for the accompanying photo of prisoners, one would likely forget that behind the percentages and statistics are men and women with children and families. They remain voiceless in the article. The author quotes only "professionals" who are paid to compile statistics and who have probably never experienced what the author euphemistically calls "prison practices" that falling numbers may allow states to "alter." Why would practices need altering? You won't find out from this article, nor from prison officials here in Blair County, who make $40 a day to "house" federal prisoners and continue to accept these prisoners despite severe overcrowding. The author admits the numbers do not mean prison populations are decreasing - only that in some places they may not be increasing as quickly. What this means is that those human beings too poor to escape the so-called criminal justice system will continue to suffer the cruelty of a system more concerned with numbers and dollars than with compassion or even justice. S. Frankel-Streit, Hollidaysburg, Pa.

Dreaming about Cuba It is disappointing to see such unsubstantiated speculations as those in the opinion-page article "Cuban Army Is Key to Political Change," Oct. 2. This article echoes the Alice-in-Wonderland fantasies of Miami-based Cuban exiles who a couple years back were reclaiming their estates and businesses in Cuba. To be told that it was not Fidel Castro's guerrillas who overthrew Batista, but an "unsuccessful 1956 Army coup" that "facilitated Castro's rise to power" smacks of an Orwellian dumping of facts down a memory hole. The authors have a right to dream. But to propose (without any evidence) that "back room politicking" in the Cuban Communist Party is plotting an Army coup smells less of a dream than of calculated disinformation. Anyone who knows of the hunger, murder, and misery in most of Latin America has reason to believe that, squeezed though they may be by the United States embargo and the Soviet cutoff, Cubans have accomplished something good in the last 32 years and want to defend it. F. O. Richardson, Brooklyn, N.Y.

The politics of science I am delighted to read the article "Epitaph Written to Cold-Fusion Follies," July 10. But when are you going to write the epitaph to the global-warming and sea-level-rise follies? Although there is no conclusive evidence to support either global warming or a rise in the sea level, many scientists have used erroneous models and sensational media coverage to predict catastrophic scenarios. These scenarios have been used to threaten South Pacific island peoples and extort research funds from politicians. It is a conspiracy for a money grab. Brendan Holden, Suva, Fiji

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