The forgotten prison issue

According to your Nov. 27 editorial on the overuse of incarceration, "Wanted: the prison issue," it's estimated nearly half of the 2 million inmates in the US are serving time for small-time drug possession and other nonviolent crimes.Putting Americans with drug problems behind bars with hardened criminals is a dangerous proposition.

According to research published in American Psychologist, about one-fourth of those initially imprisoned for nonviolent crimes are sentenced for a second time for committing a violent offense. Whatever else it reflects, this pattern highlights the possibility that prison serves to transmit violent habits and values rather than to reduce them.

It's time to rethink the failed drug war and start treating all substance abuse - legal or otherwise - as the public health problem that it is.

Robert Sharpe Washington The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation

Thank you for addressing the crime/prison population boom in your editorial. It is indeed mind-blowing that this issue doesn't receive more attention. Ralph Nader was the only one I heard addressing it in the presidential campaign. The tough-on-crime mentality, coupled with growing for-profit corporate prisons, will turn around and bite this country if we do not find alternatives to incarceration.

I'm embarrassed and outraged by this issue, but proud to see more and more members of the media bringing it into public view.

Barry Green Santa Cruz, Calif.

It seems a little late to complain about the prison issue missing from the campaign.

It is not too late to complain about the 2 million prisoners, most of whom are serving time for harming nobody except themselves. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, the US now has over 25 percent of the world's prisoners.

Kirk Muse Vancouver, Wash.

Having fun while we learn

In your Nov. 14 Learning column, "Class act: a teacher's view," the author speculates about why the wizard Merlyn, in T.H. White's "The Once and Future King," would recommend learning as a way to take our minds off our troubles.She wonders why and then suggests that maybe it doesn't matter.

As William Glasser, founder of Reality Therapy, has pointed out, humans are constantly trying to fulfill five basic needs, one of which is the need for fun.His observation is that humans have fun when they are engaged in learning something.It doesn't require hours of study or intense memorization. The process of engaging the mind with new information or thinking about something in a new way is fulfilling a need for all of us, and we find ourselves having fun.

Sarah Elliston Cincinnati

Do all seniors deserve a tribute?

With due respect for Marilyn Gardner's Nov. 22 Connections Column, "Stereotypes tarnish 'golden years,' " do all of us deserve such kind words?

Essentially, Ms. Gardner's defense of elders is in response to the Florida vote fiasco. Surely, we senior citizens vote early and often.

Both parties cater to us and our wants. My World War II generation receives more than its share of entitlements. Some need every penny just to get by. For others it's the frosting on the cake. Maybe some brilliant retiree will come up with a better, safer voting system -a good way to spend that leisure time.

Mary Meyer Pasadena, Calif.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Due to the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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