Re "What I saw behind bars," Current, Aug. 6
Ex-convict Pat Nolan wrote as though these inmates were born in prisons, or that there were no public schools for them to attend when they were kids. Perhaps life in prisons should be made so dismal, painful and difficult that the actual experience would serve to deter more than just false hopes of rehabilitation of the inmates. Why not use fear to protect the law-abiding instead of the other way around? Criminals should be punished, literally, from the time they're incarcerated until they are released.
KEVIN LEE SMITH
\f7I was impressed by Nolan's insider's view of prison and his list of recommendations for prison reform.
I am the co-coordinator of a program sponsored by Chaffey College to provide female inmates at the California Institution for Women in Chino with the opportunity to earn an associate's degree. It has been met with a level of passive resistance from some prison staff, despite the ardent dedication of Warden Dawn Davison. Overall, critics often claim that inmates don't deserve a free college education. To that I say, it's not that they necessarily deserve an education any more than anyone else; however, we deserve to have a system that delivers on its promise to make and keep us safe. An inmate's education isn't just an investment in one person; it is an investment in the safety and wellbeing of all of us. We deserve that from our prisons, from our schools and colleges, and for our communities.
LAURA L. HOPE
Speaking from his own experience during two years in federal prison, former Assemblyman Nolan has shown us how to overcome the ideologically driven opposition to prison reform that is so fervently shared by many of his fellow Republicans in the Legislature. Just send them to prison for a few years and they will become advocates of rational prison reform. Nothing informs like walking in the other fellow's shoes.
Re "Call in the feds," Current, Aug. 6
I did two state prison terms. After parole from the California Institution for Men in Chino in 1997, I studied at Loyola Marymount University, graduating in 2001. Today, I am near completion of my master's in social work at USC.
Yes, the state prison system is in a state of crisis, and I have done the hard time. Sadly, since 1997, I have seen the politics of fear perpetuated not only by conservatives but, surprisingly, by current Speaker of the Assembly Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), who ridiculously has called for using lease revenue bonds to build more prisons.
A federal intervention ought to be welcomed not simply to ignore the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., but rather to suppress the politically irresponsible, unaccountable politicians who will chase votes rather than seek sound solutions to the state's prison system crisis.
LUIS S. GARCIA