Dear editor:

If letters selected for printing reflect the sentiments and philosophy of the publisher, I can only say that I wouldn’t really rather have a Reader reader and offer a rebuttal to four muddleheaded and irresponsible letters in your paper on January 29, 1999, regarding two pieces by Jack Clark [January 15] and Steve Bogira [January 8].

I was a caseworker for the Illinois Department of Public Aid in the Austin area for 20 years (1968-’88), and I saw with my own eyes a much worse situation than Jack Clark reported–which was the literal transformation of a thriving community into a basket case–and it is unforgivable to label someone a racist for reporting fact.

The alleged $19,000 per year per prison inmate is “progressive” hogwash and similar to the lobbying tricks we used to employ in the welfare establishment when we wanted more money. We would cite only the cash grant, deceptively omitting medicaid, food stamps, furniture and clothing vouchers, etc. I contend that it is twice that when you include the cost of building the prison; legal fees defending against “jailhouse lawyers” claiming abuse; an army of teachers, social workers, psychologists, etc; and the often-forgotten land that the prison is on that not only is taken out of productive taxpaying use (say, 100 homes or 50 businesses) but for miles around. The very idea of a prison tends to lower all sorts of values, i.e. property, moral, comfort, vocational, etc.

And that shameful propaganda plug for Charles “I’ll walk over my mother” Colson is jaundice writ large with the enlightening remark that “crime is more than a broken law.” Is it? Only to follow with the admission that “families are violated and injured.” And just when I was expecting draconian punishment, the dear soul said that “offenders” shouldn’t be “warehoused,” which is the liberal euphemism for equating a murderer with a jaywalker and apparently forgetting that no thuggish monsters are “accountable” because they don’t know what accountability is. They think that the population of the world is one and the other six billion of us are their fodder. “Their families lose their support” sounds forlorn and heartrending until you realize that our sage is referring to income from hitting people over the head!

And your last “Renaissance intellectual” made me cry. Touting the blessings of motherhood, the tenderness of the distaff aside, coupled with grief and depression, and you have a three-hankie soap opera–apparently too biased to see that the very reason that our “little darlings” commit crimes is they expect to shuffle up before some “turn ’em loose Bruce” type of judge and walk. Then there is the esoteric thought that “committing a crime does not make someone a bad parent.” You reach your children according to what you are and what you know and “a crime” means one crime, and even I would have reservations about sending a first-time criminal to the gaol. Keep in mind that we are not talking about a Les miserables type of society where you have to steal bread to feed your children. We have been at an unprecedented level of prosperity over the last 30 years with only two or three minirecessions, none lasting over two years. So all any citizen had to do was get up off his ass and go to work.

These liberals can’t make the fundamental and simple connection that while we have the highest prison population in history, our crime rate is in a virtual free-fall.

If a Cro-Magnon from Minnesota who is barely bipedal can get elected governor, I’m going to run in 2004 and really cut the cost of inmate upkeep. A bullet costs only 13 cents!

John Mayhew

W. North

PS: Lest there is concern about my own responsibility, the last sentence is a metaphor for legal executions.