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Empty Jail

April 15, 1996

The new Twin Towers jail in downtown L.A. is jocund reality ("L.A. Needs New Jail Now--and Wilson Holds the Key," editorial, April 10). It should be a valid concern for all of us that within the next generation or two, the county will be unable to build enough jails to accommodate the new wave of offenders. Intervention, diversion and education programs are deplorably underfunded. When funds do happen to find their way into these programs, directors and staff utilize them playing "catch-up."

Now, L.A. County is the proud owner of a brand new state-of-the-art penal institution with no funding for operating costs. The governor, while proposing a 15% tax cut for wealthy Californians, would freeze welfare payments (for how long?), to generate funding for a jail! This type of fiscal aerobics, coupled with the present abysmal cuts in health, education and social service programs, will only serve to sustain the existing vicious cycle of repeat offenders and "three strikers."

JOYCE C. SHEFFIE

Los Angeles

* It is rather sad that some of our elected officials are more eager to increase funding for jails and prisons than for welfare and social programs ("Officials Seek State Surplus Funds to Run Jail Towers," April 4). While welfare recipients are expected to live on $212 a month in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Gov. Pete Wilson and his clones in public office would be only too happy to see them live on less so that we can maintain, fund or construct more prisons.

Unfortunately, prisons largely benefit those who own and run them while doing little to make our streets appreciably safer in the long run. If we would legalize prostitution, gambling and most drugs, we would eliminate the need for any new prisons for some time to come.

While I do not wish to see Los Angeles become the welfare capital of the world, I do not wish to see it become the prison capital of the world either. Our level of homelessness and poverty is a national disgrace. We should be spending more of our tax dollars to help people survive and become independent and less of them enriching the prison industry.

CHARLES B. EDELMAN

Los Angeles

* Re L.A. County's new $373-million empty prison: Just Another Intellectual Landmark.

STUART A. CANNOLD

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