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A Costly Burden For Taxpayers: Prisoners Who Live in the Lap of Luxury

The opinion-page essay ''Prison is No Place for 'Extras,' '' Feb. 28, was promising. As a taxpayer I am against the prison luxuries, and in support of the ''No Frills Prison Act.''

Consider the rising crime rate. As mentioned by the author, ''Criminals have come to view jail as an almost acceptable lifestyle.'' What sort of punishment is that? Are criminals supposed to worry about getting sent to prison? I know I wouldn't.

More and more criminals are let out of prison early because they are too crowded. Once on their own, it doesn't take much to commit another crime, get thrown back into jail, and enjoy the fine luxuries of television, outstanding gym facilities, and high-tech equipment. And while in prison, criminals know that their life is better in prison than on the streets.

If criminals aren't afraid of getting thrown into prison, what would keep them from committing another crime? We need to support the ''No Frills Prison Act'' and get it passed.

Micah Robison

Rexburg, Idaho

NEA, NEH: elitist groups

In the opinion-page article ''Tuning In to Jefferson's TV,'' Feb. 16, there are some informed references to the Founding Fathers and John Locke. However, I believe these references were misapplied to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

When the Founding Fathers framed the Constitution they made no provision for government sponsorship of the arts. And despite the author's claim that these expenditures are ''Jeffersonian to the core,'' Thomas Jefferson almost certainly would have concurred with his colleagues (he was not present at the Constitutional Convention).

The author implies that the NEA and NEH grants somehow foster a ''just government (deriving its powers from the consent of the governed).'' This echoes Jefferson's expression in the Declaration of Independence. But what could ever be just about taking one citizen's wages and spending it without his or her consent to promulgate ideas that he or she may consider morally repugnant?

In this country the arts and humanities have enjoyed unprecedented freedom and patronage.

The best thing that could happen for the public media would be for them to throw off the crutch of governmental support and stand on the generosity of their patrons. The fundamental problems with the NEA and NEH belie the author's ideal of ''inclusion of the powerless.'' What actually happens is that an elite, artistic few are chosen to receive the taxpayer's bounty, while the rest of us remain powerless. This is hardly what Jefferson would have wanted for this country.

Kelley Vincent

Elm Springs, Ariz.

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