An "inside" perspective on growing up behind bars

Your May 14 article "For youths on trial, a tough state," about Florida's stand on trying kids as adults, was right on the mark. It addressed an issue very meaningful to me, since I was tried as an adult when I was 15 years old: for robbery, my first offense. So I know kids like Nathaniel Brazill and Lionel Tate have little real understanding about what is happening to them, or what the future may hold in store. Even after nine years in this heavily guarded warehouse, there are times when it still seems surreal to me that I'm here - that I'm still here.

Surely such intelligent, educated people as the judges, prosecuting attorneys, and lawmakers don't truly believe that casting a very, very young troubled kid into an adult prison system for long years will somehow miraculously produce someone more attractive to "society"! Logic should prevail here, not a sense of wanting "to get even" or "send a message" to future offenders - because most of us will some day be released from these prisons, to a future that is dubious at best.

I will be eligible for parole in another six years, and looking at the prospect of release with few possibilities. I've never had a job or my own house; I don't even know how to drive a car! I've had no job training, because here there isn't the money for those kinds of programs. And I'm not the exception: There are hundreds just like me here in Texas, and thousands across America.

The current "solutions" clearly aren't working. As long as there are troubled kids there will always be this problem, and locking them away for most of their lives is to no one's benefit. As time will tell.

Joseph W. Botts Kenedy, Texas

Where California goes...

Your May 21 article "Kilowatt crisis dents California's legendary optimism" really hit home. Our energy crisis has meant dramatically cutting back on air conditioning, even though we must cope with the searing Central Valley summer heat. My family voluntarily conserves as responsible citizens (though so far we can afford to air-condition our home); however, I worry about my elderly neighbors.

What angers me most about this situation is not how many power plants were not built, but how we have so grossly overpopulated this state. California now has a growth rate 50 percent higher than Bangladesh, with 92 percent of that growth due to mass immigration. At this rate, we will have the same population density as present-day China in less than 30 years.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out there is no way the supply side can possibly keep up with exponential population growth. As in China, water shortages are just around the corner. Pray for us: For where California goes, so goes the nation.

Sue Hokana Fiddletown, Calif.

Profile in discouragement

Two articles in your May 18 edition stirred my somnolent conscience. A high school football knee injury rendered me ineligible for service in Vietnam. The imperative of the "long, slow distance" has also allowed this same knee to keep me jogging all these years.

Now I learn from Daniel Schorr's opinion piece, "Revisiting our heroes," that not having "served" should make me uncomfortable about debating the ethics of the US military. Worse yet, as per your article, "High school star puts glow back in the mile," I may bear responsibility for the decline of US track with my "easy does it" attitude toward running.

On my next outing, I intend to do wind sprints. This should allow me ample opportunity to read "PT 109" during my inevitable time in traction.

Mark Dembrow Eugene, Ore.

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