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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Petty Offenses Add to Jail Overcrowding

August 18, 2004

As a Catholic worker who has been serving on skid row for 32 years, I know many people among the "floor-sleepers" population at county jails ("Inmates Forced to Sleep on Floor," Aug. 15). I know, personally, many people who have been incarcerated for jaywalking, drinking in public, possession of a stolen shopping cart, sitting on the street, sleeping on the street, urinating in public and panhandling. Are these people criminals? I say no.

It is not my intention to canonize my friends. But I have heard enough about the overcrowding of the jail system, while knowing dozens of noncriminals incarcerated for what I see as coping with their homelessness.

The dialogue needs to include more than the number of beds, number of deputies and number of inmates who "stream into the jail each day."

Catherine Morris

Los Angeles

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