The Aug. 2 editorial (“Finding solutions for overcrowded prisons”) correctly pointed out that the U.S. locks up more of its citizens than all but one other country in the world, by a long shot. While less-onerous sentences are part of the solution, what we need is more of a focus on rehabilitation. This would mean spending more money on alternatives to incarceration than on jails and prisons. Probation and parole officers are overwhelmed with caseloads and often don’t follow through with making their probationers and parolees get psychological testing and attend programs. And there aren’t enough programs to help former inmates get jobs and have the support they need to keep them.
If our society is committed to reducing its crime rate and the havoc those crimes inflict on communities, we need to recognize that many of our youths — those with mental illness and those who have gotten caught up in drugs or with crime — need guidance instead of punishment. It’s long been understood that young people who get sent to kid jail are more likely to return than are those who are put on probation or into other programs. And older, nonviolent offenders need the same help. If Republicans are only worried about the costs of incarceration, as the editorial asserts, they should remember that we could send people to a nice college for the cost of incarcerating them. We should shut down the for-profit prisons and shift that money to providing more programs that help people instead of just locking them up.
Diane Wiley, Minneapolis
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According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, drug offenders made up 48.6 percent of all federal inmates as of the end of June. The proportion of inmates related to drug offenses in state facilities is at 21 percent. The typical mandatory sentence for a first-time drug offense in federal court is five or 10 years and, as noted in the Aug. 2 editorial, in some states much longer.
The terrible story that was related on the front page of the Star Tribune two Sundays ago about North Dakota college student Andrew Sadek exemplifies the craziness that has taken over our courts. Andrew was given the choice — become an informant or go to jail for 40 years. His crime was selling $80 worth of marijuana. He was found dead; he had become an informant.
From the “asset forfeiture” laws that corrupt at multiple levels to our cities being rife with gang violence, the current approach to drugs has recreated the worst of the Prohibition era and has laid most of the resultant brutality on our minority communities.
The book, “Chasing the Scream,” describes this well. Other books worth reading about the consequences of the drug wars include “Burning Down the House,” “The New Jim Crow” and “Drug Crazy: How We Got intoThis Mess and How We Can Get Out.” They all reinforce what the Star Tribune’s editorial implied — that the nation is losing its way and, in the process, is bringing tremendous misery to many of its citizens.
Our leaders, both at the state and national levels, need to remedy this. Inmates currently incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses, some for life, need to be pardoned; new approaches and laws must be created; the Supreme Court must stop the “cruel and unusual punishment” that now clouds our land.
The Prohibition era ended, and so can our own era of ugliness. Our country can be better than what we are now becoming.
Paul Bearmon, Edina
It’s the sense of personal entitlement that’s wrong
One of the hunters in the Aug. 2 article “Big-game hunters find themselves in the cross hairs” describes his big-game trophy as “a three-dimensional picture that is a memory for me.”
I believe this sums up the problem. He wants a trophy (made from a living creature) as a personal memento for himself. This means that thousands of other people who might have viewed this animal or its potential offspring in the wild are forever denied that possibility because this man feels he is entitled.
It’s the epitome of selfishness (based on his need for an adrenaline-junkie rush).
Linda Grohoski, Shoreview
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Dennis Anderson (“Thoughts on a lion and a faraway news story, while afloat,” Aug. 2) did what we are all trying to do regarding the death of Cecil the lion: work through his conflicted feelings. But in doing so, he stated that after Walter Palmer shot “his lion,” reports of an immediate 40-hour tracking party are false: “the animal was left undisturbed overnight.”
I am struck by two things: the use of a possessive pronoun — “his” lion — and the assertion that any living thing can be “undisturbed overnight” after being shot with an arrow from a “compound bow,” Anderson tells us (“not a crossbow”). I do not know from cross and compound bows and arrows: Is one less disturbing stuck in a lion overnight?
Patrick Coyle, Bloomington
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For those who want the thrill of the hunt and its reward, and who feel that a camera safari is too tame, how about this as a solution: catch and release?
The approach is to equip the trophy hunters with a dart gun, arrow or blow gun, to anesthetize the animal so it can be tagged and examined by local veterinarians. In the process, the hunters can have their pictures taken with their prey. They can enlarge the picture to life size and hang it in their offices. That way they can still face danger, feed their ego and help the wildlife they love. No animals would be hurt in the process, except for the sting of the dart. But maybe, as H.L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
Brian Toren, Prior Lake
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While reading the Aug. 2 commentary “How I learned I didn’t belong in the business of killing,” I was struck when the author described the killing of his little dog Henry in a body-grip trap in 1988.
Here it is 27 years later, and trappers are still killing our dogs in those same traps. Haven’t we killed enough dogs yet?
Every year more dogs are killed in body-grip traps in Minnesota. Seven more just last year, and two more seriously injured. One dog lost both eyes and an ear. Another required a decision on $5,000 worth of surgery or to be put down because of the damage caused by the trap to its throat.
We spend about a billion dollars a year on dogs in this state, yet we continue to allow this?
The reason trappers are killing our dogs with impunity is that key legislators have teamed up with the uncompromising trappers associations and have blocked every attempt to bring this state into the 21st century. Even Alabama does a better job of protecting dogs from body-grip traps. Now, there is something we can be proud of, isn’t it?
John Reynolds, Merrifield, Minn.
Serial novel helped this reader make a streetside connection
I wanted to thank you for the summer serial “Under Ground.” I am enjoying the story as it unfolds everyday. A sweet side effect was an interaction I had recently while walking by a bus stop in downtown Minneapolis.
I noticed a fellow with the paper page folded to the “Under Ground” story. I just had to stop and ask him if he was enjoying it, too. He said, “Did you read today’s yet?” “Not yet,” I said, but I could tell by the look in his eyes that something was happening.
The summer serial provided the opportunity for a spontaneous streetside book club and anticipation for the next reading, and I thank the Star Tribune for that.
Penny Van Kampen, Edina