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Ace of Diamonds

November 03, 1996

The age-old question "Am I my brother's keeper?" was eloquently answered in Celeste Fremon's insightful article ("Can Hollywood Save Crazy Ace?" Oct. 6). I worked teaching classes within the prison system for several years before such programs were dismantled by the government. I came to know many young men who sincerely wanted to change their lives but needed help in order to do so. The trend away from rehabilitative programs in the prisons is a step in the wrong direction. Let Robert (Crazy Ace) Leon's story stand as a reminder of this.

Congratulations to Dorothy Balsis Thompson for her innovative program. She and others are doing what we all should be doing: watching out for one another.

Alice Lemon

El Segundo

*

I was pleased to see two feature stories covering Mexican Americans from different spectrums, but I'd have preferred the Victor Morales article ("The Schoolteacher and Goliath," by Brenda Bell, Oct. 6) as a cover story instead of the tale of a tattooed neo-punk gangbanger who has an 80/20 chance of going back to jail someday and costing the taxpayers more money.

R. J. Garcia

Long Beach

*

Great article last week highlighting Leon and his personal transformation. I, too, am involved with helping to educate others and giving them a second chance. Still, I can't help but wonder why more of these "transformed" young people don't use their respect and power to help educate others who are walking in their footsteps.

Why is Leon still hanging out in the projects when he could instead be involved in a positive program to turn the lives of others around?

I'm sure he's a great guy who is extremely grateful for the chance he's been given. But, as Fremon said, he also was responsible for activity that still causes harm and violence to many people today. To accept responsibility for this and help others to do better would be another positive stride forward for Leon.

Mike Parker

Los Angeles

*

The response we've had at Streetlights to the Fremon article has been heartening. We're happy to report that since the article was written, Robert Leon has been placed on his second major feature film. All reports indicate his former life is just that--his former life.

Our program is not just for those with prior incarcerations and/or gang affiliations. Many of our participants are on welfare, with the lack of a formal education being their only barrier to employment. All applicants, however, must have an annual income of less than $7,600 (the poverty level) to qualify. Streetlights places a heavy emphasis on removing people from the welfare rolls and keeping families together. With our help, more than one family now has both parents back together in the home and has become self-supporting.

Dorothy Balsis Thompson

Founder and Director

Streetlights

*

Many thanks to Thompson and her assistant, Janet Crosby, who put their personal welfare at risk to try to make the world better. They understand that the government--or some large agency out there--won't take care of everything, and that no sweeping social reforms are going to solve the gang problem.

Change will happen when many individuals commit themselves to the cause. I hope Leon rewards their efforts with success.

Marie Martin

Sherman Oaks

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