Work release promises untrue | Feb. 24
Monitor inmates electronically
The Florida Smart Justice Alliance has been advocating for electronic monitoring of all work-release inmates for some time, and we are pleased to see that Gov. Rick Scott has recommended $7.5 million for exactly that. We are hopeful the Legislature will recognize that the vast majority of inmates in work release do their time without incident, but electronic monitoring will provide the public with an even greater sense of security.
While electronic monitoring cannot guarantee that inmates will do no harm, it does ensure that authorities will be notified if any prisoners deviate from their work-related path or attempt to remove the monitoring device. And if a crime does occur, the device will clearly document whether the inmate was present.
Corrections Secretary Mike Crews recently acknowledged that 87 percent of all Florida inmates will leave prison one day, some after having served sentences for serious, violent crimes. Floridians need to know that their Legislature is working to minimize the threat these offenders pose by taking appropriate steps to deter future criminal acts — steps like work-release programs that provide the tools to live as law-abiding citizens. The Smart Justice legislation announced last week would make nonviolent, low-level offenders a priority for facilities like the Largo center, because statistics show these are actually the types of offenders most likely to return to prison in the future.
Work release remains an important component for public safety over the long term. The security of work-release operations can certainly be improved, but that's true whether a facility is run by private providers or by the Department of Corrections. For example, even DOC-operated work-release programs do not have security cameras or fences. All of these facilities should be upgraded, and the Legislature must recognize that nonprofit providers — not just the department — will need the financial resources to pay for such additional security measures. To ensure public safety, this is the least we can do.
Barney Bishop III, president, Florida Smart Justice Alliance, Tallahassee
Get going on better transit | Feb. 24, editorial
Sad state of mass transit
There is a coming vote for an increase in the sales tax in Pinellas County to benefit mass transit. This is an issue that engenders much controversy in the community.
I suggest a ride on the No. 52 bus from Williams Park in St. Petersburg to Park Street terminal in Clearwater. It will be an interesting two hours, give an idea of the sad state of mass transit in Pinellas County, and show why Tampa Bay and efficient intermodal mass transit cannot be an oxymoron.
John Ways, St. Pete Beach
Hospital details missing Feb. 21, editorial
Profits and care don't mix
Many of us have already heard a great number of horror stories about investment takeovers in the for-profit health care industry. This kind of thing does not happen in most other developed countries such as Canada and those in Europe. Why should we go backward instead of forward in today's state of economic crisis?
I share with others a core belief that top-down health care managers, educators and insurance executives should not be in the business of making huge annual profits that would be more wisely spent and monitored in a nonprofit system. I would resent contributing one dime to this systemic theft, which has often brought about terrible divisions among rich, poor and the middle class in our country.
Shirley Parsons Reiner, St. Petersburg
Handgun and rifle owners should be absolutely responsible for the safe keeping and storage of all weapons and ammunition. Many crimes are committed by individuals not authorized to use the weapons. In the case of Sandy Hook Elementary School, had the guns and rifles been locked in a secure storage, the event may never have happened.
If a person wants to own handguns and rifles, he or she has a responsibility to keep them safely and securely stored at all times.
Ira Ratner, Riverview
Keep 'stand your ground' law, task force recommends | Feb. 23
Self-defense is fundamental
The final report by the task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to review Florida's "stand your ground" law contains this concise, undeniably true argument in support of the fundamental right of people to defend themselves:
"All persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be."
This perfectly worded expression of a basic human right deserves to be in the Florida and U.S. Constitutions.
Ray Reeves, Largo
College degree's value changing Feb. 24, Robert Trigaux column
Dollars and nonsense
The movement to assess the value of a college major and degree by how much graduates are paid after school may be the ultimate bastardization of knowledge and learning by political philistines.
I obviously didn't major in philosophy to gain an income advantage for my first job or two out of college — I did so in order to learn how to read and write and think with subtlety and precision, and to develop skill in distinguishing good ideas and arguments from nonsense. And this idea about how to value college majors and degrees is utter nonsense.
While almost everyone wants good work, there is so much more to both college and jobs than simply how much one earns. What a shame our political leadership is so uneducated.
Donald R. Eastman III, president, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg