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Why punish taxpayers?

June 21, 2008

Re "No mercy," editorial, June 18

The problem with your editorial dismissing compassionate release for Manson family killer Susan Atkins (who is dying of cancer) is that it advocates punishing taxpayers to no productive end. The editorial correctly points out that we've already taken Atkins' productive life away from her, which, considering her crimes, was fully appropriate and quite enough. Now that she has so little time left, all we're doing by keeping her incarcerated is paying to provide her with free room, board and healthcare. Who exactly does that punish?

Sometimes standing on rigid ceremony is a waste of everyone's time and money. Requiring a cancer victim to die in prison on the public's dime for symbolic purposes does nothing for public safety or crime prevention, and we have better things to spend the money on in these difficult times.

Jim Bickhart

Venice

I was the psychologist at the California Institution for Women for a time and got to know Atkins moderately well. To this day, I do not trust testimony she gave in court because she was starving for acceptance, and I believe she altered her testimony to curry favor with others in the Manson group. She was of age, but I do not think she was fully competent.

In any case, I believe that the criterion for releasing an inmate back into the community should be potential danger to the community. There should be no other criterion, least of all revenge. At the present time, it is clear that Atkins would be no danger to the community. She should be out among us, to smell the fresh air so to speak, before she is laid to rest.

Jerrold Cohen

Seal Beach

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