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Letters to the editor

L.A. County's overcrowded jails; the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law; the future of the Occupy movement

November 18, 2011
  • Sheriff's Cmdr. James Hellmold, part of a task force recently assembled to implement jail reforms, walks the third floor of Men's Central Jail in L.A. County. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Sheriff's Cmdr. James Hellmold, part of a task force recently assembled… (Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles…)

Too many inmates

Re "County jails filling faster than feared," Nov. 16

There is an obvious solution to L.A. County's jail overcrowding problem. I read in The Times recently that 70% of the people in jail are awaiting trial. The last time I checked, these people have not been convicted of anything and are, therefore, presumed innocent.

The problem is, they are not presumed innocent by the majority of the judges in this county when it comes to bail. Judges routinely set bail in amounts so high that hardly any person charged with a crime can afford to post it. So they go into custody.

Seventy percent — that is very high. Think what could be done to ease overcrowding if more defendants were released on their own recognizance pending trial.

Michael R. Coghlan

South Pasadena

There's a lot of open land in Southern California, enough to build a "tent city" for L.A. County's offenders and relieve overcrowding rather than freeing inmates.

Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who houses many of his inmates in a tent complex, is still "the people's sheriff," and we're still dumb enough to reelect Lee Baca as our sheriff.

Apparently, the people of Maricopa County must feel that if Army tents are good enough for our troops, they are good enough for inmates.

Steve Nemiroff

West Los Angeles

Healthcare and the Constitution

Re "A mandate's fate," Opinion, Nov. 15

Erwin Chemerinsky writes that everyone will use healthcare services at some point in their lives, so therefore the government has the authority to mandate the purchase of health insurance. But insurance is not necessarily required for a person to receive healthcare services. I could pay my bills directly and not utilize insurance.

If we follow Chemerinsky's logic, we could say that the government could require everyone to purchase bread, whether or not they want to eat it, because everyone needs to eat, just like everyone needs healthcare. But people don't need to buy bread to eat, just like they don't necessarily need to buy insurance to receive healthcare services.

While the healthcare reform law may have had noble intentions, and I think we all agree on the necessity of meaningful change to the healthcare system in our country, the mandate is clearly unconstitutional.

Ira Lapides

Oak Park, Calif.

Chemerinsky makes the point that we will all need healthcare sooner or later, so we should have health insurance. It is my sense that the health insurance companies are extremely inefficient; they deny treatment when possible and much keep of our money for themselves.

The Affordable Care Act is half a loaf (better than none). We can do better.

John Boyden

Sierra Madre

Chemerinsky writes that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act is "clearly" constitutional. The provisions in question may be constitutional, but a reasoned argument could just as well be made that they are not.

Chemerinsky states that any other ruling than the Supreme Court finding the mandate constitutional would be an act of political partisanship. My eighth-grade students often believe that any disagreement with their arguments is a sign of evil intent because that which is so clear to them must be clear to everyone else.

I expect better than that from a seasoned academic leader.

Andrew Mewbourn

Greensburg, Pa.

Herding the Occupy folks

Re "Where does the Occupy movement go now?," Nov. 16

There comes a point when enough is enough. The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have had more than enough time for their say. These folks have become nothing but a nuisance.

Indeed, the police had no other choice but to "get 'em up, move 'em out, head 'em up, get 'em up." It worked with the cattle on "Rawhide," and it may be the only way to get these folks moving and possibly back to doing something constructive.

JoAnn Lee Frank

Clearwater, Fla.

What a foolish question to place on the front page.

The clearing of Zuccotti Park will prove no more effective in ending a genuine democratic uprising by an aroused citizenry fed up with the hypocrisy of a corrupt, plutocratic system than Bull Conner's dogs had in silencing the civil rights movement.

You can't evict an idea.

Ernest A. Canning

Thousand Oaks

Re "Now, about the lawn," Opinion, Nov. 16

Kudos to Emily Green for encouraging L.A. officials to replace City Hall's dead lawn with native landscaping.

Large lawns are a tradition brought by those who came from soggy England. Grass doesn't belong in this drought-prone climate. Not only do lawns gulp a lot of water, but the tons of pesticides and high-nitrogen fertilizers dumped on them pollute our water table and our oceans.

Then there are the thousands of carbon-spewing lawn mowers adding to global warming. And a lawn's value for wildlife? Practically none.

Thanks to the occupiers, City Hall can rethink its landscaping.

Alan Pollack

Woodland Hills

Border control

Re "No work, no reason to go north," Nov. 15

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