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Educate Rather Than Incarcerate

Regarding the opinion-page article ''Prison Is No Place for 'Extras,' '' Feb. 28: Rep. Dick Zimmer would do better to concentrate on the causes of criminal actions in our communities. He could work for increased educational opportunities and an economy that provides jobs that pay a decent wage. It costs the taxpayer more to incarcerate than to educate.

To be locked up and under surveillance 24 hours a day is punishment. No inmate has ever expressed to me anything but a desire to be free.

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Punishment alone will not enable an inmate to return to society with the skills and self-discipline to do no more harm; indeed, it mitigates against caring for your fellow humans.

Psychological counseling is not a frill for those unable to contain their anger, yet such counseling is often the first to be cut. Nor are substance-abuse programs frills; drugs and alcohol are behind many criminal acts, yet inmates often can wait months or years for admission into the prison programs.

Amenities not to be allowed under the ''No Frills Prison Act'' (i.e., coffee pots) are usually items purchased by inmates lucky enough to have one of the few low-paying prison jobs.

Amelie H. Scheltema, Woods Hole, Mass.

Peace and Social Concerns Committee

West Falmouth Friends Meeting (Quakers)

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet E-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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