Helping troubled kids help themselves
Re "On Probation: In an earlier era, kids in the camps were treated like human beings by adults who cared about them and wanted to help them change," and "Today, federal intervention is necessary to fix intractable problems at Los Angeles County's Department of Probation," Oct. 10
It is shocking to read about the new lows in California's juvenile justice system.
Fortunately, as author Sal Martinez modestly reminded us, there is something we all can do to help make an important difference in the lives of young people.
Regardless of education, income or experience, we can take an interest in the kids in our communities and spend quality time developing mentoring relationships.
Indeed, according to the experts, spending one-on-one quality time with kids, as did Martinez's case worker, is the biggest factor in whether they will "make it" as an adult.
Sarah A. Jones
Captain Cook, Hawaii
The problems described have the potential to start dialogues similar to those regarding public education. It can bring out intractable ideologues on all sides.
The hollow choice
between tough-on-crime/boot-camp proponents and those pleading for rehabilitation and understanding of delinquents is now refereed by lawyers and legislators who have separate agendas.
Evaluating public programs, policies and bureaucratic organizations cannot be productively accomplished in a sound bite.
The problems of L.A.'s Probation Department probably have complicated human and organizational dimensions. They are not going to be solved by changing superficial
"expert" beliefs that have guided the favored correctional programs of recent decades.
The illustration with the article depicts a Big Bad Mean Prison Guard looming over a Poor Little Sad Criminal Convict.
All animals, even predators, look sad and pathetic when trapped or caught.
Once again The Times directs the reader's sympathy to the criminal and not to the victims of crimes.
By the time humans are 13 years old, they should know the difference between right and wrong — especially when it comes to crimes of violence.
Stop coddling criminal convicts. It only creates an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance for the intolerable. Find and incarcerate the parents of juvenile offenders and let them do time together.
William I. Brenner
Making sense of the propositions
Re "Nine cures that will make it worse," Opinion, Oct. 10
Joe Mathew's excellent, albeit dense, analysis of the nine initiatives on November's ballot leads me to conclude that most of us who think we know the basic pros and cons of each issue really have just a superficial understanding of the long-range impact of our decisions.
From Propositions 19 to 27, it took me several slow reads to understand the subtleties and far-ranging tentacles that my vote would help support.
It should not take a doctorate in political science to cast an intelligent vote, but when confronting the complexities and repercussions of this ballot, it certainly might help.
Having read the excellent article on the propositions, I find myself in a dilemma.
The author states: "When you vote yes on any of them, you're voting not for change but for more of the same."
So let's see. If I vote yes on all of the propositions on the ballot, I'm voting for more of the same. However, if I vote no, I'm also voting for more of the same. Right?
Seems to me there's a simple solution — maybe circulate a proposition to put an end to propositions.
Mathews' piece made me think about the initiative system in California.
Many folks like it (including me, sometimes), but it has generally left us with a burdensome legacy of poor legislation.
A simple solution might be to keep it as it is with one exception — all initiative legislation or amendments should have a built-in sunset provision, which would automatically terminate the initiative after a prescribed time period unless reinforced by a Legislature-passed law, a non-initiative constitutional amendment or a new initiative (which would also be subject to the sunset provision).
This would allow voters to try something but would let poor initiative experiments disappear naturally, the so-so ones to be made better and the good ones to be kept through the Legislature or the ongoing will of the voters.
Catholics then, Muslims now
Re "When Catholics were the enemy," Opinion, Oct. 10
Sharon Davies' comparison between the anti-Catholic fervor of the early 1900s and the current attitude of many toward Muslims in America has merit.
In the 1900s, many U.S. citizens feared that Catholics presented a foreign threat intent on destroying our nation. However, I am not aware of instances during that period in which Catholics were urged by the pope or their priests or bishops to carry out any actual physical harm to our nation.