Perspectives on the California Youth Authority

Regarding the opinion-page piece "Behind the Wall," Oct. 17: At last we are getting an accurate account of the appalling conditions for the teenage boys at the Preston School for Boys in Ione, Calif., the highest level facility of the California Youth Authority (CYA).My late husband and I conducted Sunday school and church services there for four years. We discovered the cause of juvenile delinquency was a lack of moral and spiritual training in the home and school. As a result, I feel the article's author offers some valuable ideas on reform and support his conclusion: "The time has come to become more responsible for the increasing delinquency of our youth." Joyce P. Rosbach, Walnut Creek, Calif.

I feel the article is misinforming to readers. I am an inmate of the California Department of Corrections house in the California Youth Authority at DeWitt Nelson Training Center in Stockton, Calif. I have been here for over two years. At DeWitt Nelson, there are approximately 525-plus wards/inmates. The setting is like that of an open college campus. There are only eight rooms that would be considered solitary confinement cells. The rest of the institution consists of open dorms. There are eight living units which house 60 to 70 wards each. Each living unit has a phone, refrigerator, microwave, TVs, weights, washer, dryer, etc. Staff members do not dress in paramilitary style, wearing military fatigues, heavy boots, and puncture-proof vests. They either wear a normal, security-style uniform or civilian clothes. The only protection they carry is a can of mace and a beeper. And, no, we do not have watch towers. Rehabilitation programs offered at DeWitt include high schools classes, job training, drug rehabilitation, anger/stress counseling, and work furlough. Yes, DeWitt is surrounded by a wire fence. We do have minor fights. On rare occasion wards and staff members harass each other. When it happens, the person is moved from the institution. Melvyn L. Rossi, Stockton, Calif.

YPA: igniting the Balkan fires Regarding the editorial "Balkan Fires," Oct. 4: The United States media generally frame events in Yugoslavia as ethnic conflicts, especially between Croats and Serbs. The Monitor's analysis has been more balanced than most, but I would like to offer a deeper analysis. The key factor in the war is the Yugoslav People's Army (YPA). This war is not an ethnic conflict, but rather an unhappy consequence of an otherwise "happy" event - the end of the cold war. The YPA, the fifth largest European Army, has had special status since World War II because Yugoslavia was preparing for attack from both sides during the cold war. When that era ended, there was no longer a need for such a huge Army. YPA leaders were also part of the communist political elite, and the democratic elections in some areas eliminated their privileges. Using national rivalry to provoke a war was the only way to stay in power after the failed Soviet coup left them with no direct outside help. The YPA is extremely vulnerable, once unmasked. Antiwar feeling is growing among their now mostly Serbian conscripts. The economy in YPA-controlled areas is precarious and their stocks of strategic minerals are low. Primoz Juznic Ljubljana, Yugoslavia

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