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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

A Fatal Lapse in County Policing

June 22, 2004

"Ailing Inmate Was Free but Never Made It Home" (June 20), about Gustavo Ortega's unnecessary death after his plight was ignored for three days in the Inmate Reception Center following his release from jail, is just heartbreaking. It's too late to unburden his family of their nightmare images of his last days. What then, I wonder, could be done to spare other loved ones? I can envision a volunteer organization similar to Traveler's Aid for those needing help in the no man's land where Ortega found himself and was lost.

Deborah Cook

Spring Valley, Calif.

During this financial crisis in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, does it make any sense to take time to arrest a sick man for drinking on Whittier Boulevard and place him in jail for some 30 days? Any sensitive officer might, with a couple of questions, have discovered the reality of the situation -- that Ortega should have been in the care of his relatives, at home, only three blocks from where he was arrested. What has happened to common sense?

R.W. Tolbert

Long Beach

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