Compassion, discipline toward youth offenders

Regarding "Youth offenders sue state over tough lockup" (May 13): I found the complaints of the inmates at California's Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, on how they are treated, to be typical of any prisoners who have not taken on full responsibility for their actions.

If they want the freedom and liberty to move about at will and get an education, they should have considered the loss of that freedom before committing the crimes that put them in lockup in the first place.

There are consequences to all behavior, good and bad.
Eartley L. West
Dover, Del.

Thank you for running the story about youth offenders – their education, their frustration, and the difficulties administrators face in dealing with them fairly and humanely. It showed the many viewpoints of the issue and made the topic understandable without sacrificing any of the complexity of the situation.

Above all, what I take away from this story is the need for compassion. How do we "suffer with" one another, see one another's views, and find common ground so we can treat each other with respect – no matter which side of the bars the other person is on.
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Placerville, Colo.

The philosophy and methods used in the "classrooms" provided for juvenile offender's in this youth correctional facility harken to the days of the New Model Prisons located in Port Arthur – the 19th-century prison colony in Port Arthur, Australia. The New Model Prison was used to house convicts who were seen as unrepentant sinners.

During incarceration, inmates had no physical contact with either their jailers or other prisoners. There was no verbal communication, with all commands being made through hand signals. And whenever prisoners were out of their cells, they wore face masks to ensure there was no nonverbal communication.

If two prisoners were in the hallway at the same time, one had to face the wall. Prisoners were also not allowed to talk while in their cells. With no human contact, inmates quickly went mad, and the prison was closed down after about 15 years.

Do we really want to revert back to a philosophy of treatment that has any hint of such an outdated mindset?
Jane McGann
Beverly Hills, Mich.

Teach youth to voice ideas, not violence

Regarding "Plumbing motives behind mail bombings" (May 9): Answers to student violence – such as the case of recently arrested Luke Helder for his possible involvement in the mailbox bombings – are hard to find.

But one might be found in our need to help children realize that US government isn't about controlling its citizens. It's about providing the freedom to make choices, within guidelines, so that millions of people with diverse views can live together.

Perhaps Mr. Helder, if he did commit the crimes, felt a lack of control over his life and blamed others, possibly even the government. But if he had a problem, he could have acted out in a much more effective way – a way that our government allows. He could have used his freedoms to stand up for his beliefs in a way people would listen to. Instead, he injured a few, and turned the majority of would-be listeners off.

We need to reprioritize our values and beliefs, especially when it comes to our children, so that they can feel in control of their lives and know they have the ability to stay that way without feeling the need to use violence to make a point.
Heather Buettner
St. Louis

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