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Crime Bill Should Go Heavy on Prevention

I agree with the article ``More Prisons Not a Cure to Crime, Experts Say,'' Feb. 23.

The so-called Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act passed the United States Senate with a 95-4 vote on Nov. 19, 1993, with no hearings or testimony whatsoever. The Senate's $22.3 billion draconian crime bill, which is currently pending in the House, offers more of what we already know does not work: The majority of money is allocated to fund new prisons, boot camps, and ultra-powerful law enforcement, while a paltry sum is earmarked for drug treatment, which has been proven as an effective crime-preventive measure.

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The crime bill is a tough-standing, knee-jerk, myopic proposition. How can we spend $22.3 billion in taxpayers' money - plus many times that amount in unfunded mandates to the states - to build more prisons, when we cannot find money to build libraries or improve health care or education?

The US already has more people in prison per capita than any other country in the world - more than China, Russia, or South Africa.

Let's be tough on crime, but let's be smart about it. We should instead be supporting the crime bill sponsored by Rep. Craig Washington (D) of Texas, which focuses money on community programs and preventive measures. Get guns and violent predators off the streets, but do not take money from programs that offer real hope of less crime. Robert Huddle, Galesburg, Ill.

Crime Bill Should Go Heavy on Prevention

We must all refrain from the political temptation of ``quick fixes'' to the crime problem. The abysmal failure of the mandatory sentences and other ``stick vs. carrot'' approaches of the Reagan/Bush years should be compelling reason to think through the implications of similar solutions before implementing them.

Though not politically popular at the time, investing in eradicating poverty and hopelessness will pay off tenfold in the future. Or we can continue to follow the practice of sticking our children and grandchildren with the bill for our lack of wisdom and foresight. Richard M. Keller, Harleysville, Pa.

East Palo Alto resurrected

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Thank you for the masterpiece ``East Palo Alto Takes Back Its Mean Streets,'' Feb. 14. It is 100 percent accurate.

I have walked precincts in the community, promoting good candidates, and have met many wonderful people determined to protect their neighborhoods. Moral courage and resilience abound. Outside interference was the worst problem, and the assistance now forthcoming from outside is long overdue.

My husband and I marvel at the patience and compassion of city officials and the Just Us volunteers, described in the article, who are taking back their streets from drug dealers. The Community Law Project also has provided invaluable legal advice to community members. Churches persistently have maintained programs for the youth and the needy.

When riots erupted in some cities, East Palo Alto's religious and civil leaders kept a lid on a possible outburst.

It's a national disgrace that ``respectable'' citizens using drugs create a market for pushers. Juvenile delinquency thrives where positive adult role models are absent. The decent people of East Palo Alto have this in common with people everywhere: The battle for what is right goes on. Marjorie Wallace, Menlo Park, Calif.

Alcohol's mainstay

Thank you for the editorial ``Alcohol and the Soft Sell,'' Feb 17.

I work with wonderful young people mostly in their late teens and early 20s in a post-secondary school. We have found that beer and other types of alcohol are at the root of domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, accidents, and failure in school; they are also the reason many people lose their jobs or are unable to work steadily and dependably. Over and over again we've seen drinking beer lead to drinking other types of alcohol.

The beer industry said recently that it is not a perfect industry. From my day-to-day experience of dealing with how alcohol affects young people, I can honestly say that this industry is a main factor in the breakdown of lives and society. Beverly Lyle, Phoenix, Ariz.

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