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Overcrowding in State Prisons

May 24, 1987

David Freed's article (May 12) on prison overcrowding will, I think, stir the interest and contempt of many correctional employees.

Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Camp is to be commended for correctly assessing the potential for violence in our overcrowded prisons. He also deserve mention for suggesting that alternatives to incarceration need to be considered. This is true, not only as necessitated by current crowding, but in an effort to improve rehabilitative efforts.

Department of Correction spokesman Bob Gore, however, must be held in contempt for his apparent lack of concern and advocacy for correctional employees. Gore is quoted in The Times as having said, "We've been at this level--severely overcrowded--for three years, and we've been dealing with the situation." He goes on to acknowledge that overcrowding is a crisis but ". . . we haven't had anything that approaches a mass incidence of violence."

As an employee of an overcrowded California Youth Authority facility, I am quite aware of the elevated potential for violence brought about by the effects of overcrowding stress alone. I think it unconscionable that a correctional spokesman would show such disregard for his colleagues by minimizing the violence potential and apparently suggesting that a "mass incidence of violence" is the criteria for initiating reform.

I must also note that overcrowding of juveniles in CYA and other facilities has a double negative effect. First, it reduces the known effectiveness of training and education, which are the primary objectives of these facilities. Second, it places these less mature individuals in an environment where violence, negativity and contempt for society is easily learned and perhaps even necessary for survival in jail. These juveniles then will likely become the next generation of overcrowded inmates.

Gore's views would perpetuate this cycle at the expense of correctional employees and society.

GARY DELANOEYE

Carpinteria

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