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How many more 'horror stories of the week'?

The horror story of the week is the rape of a sister and killing of a brother camping in one of Florida's most beautiful park areas by early released prisoners. Now the story seems more of a rerun than a new issue. Apparently the system which we are to believe is instituted to prevent these occurrences is rather seriously flawed and is substantially in need of logical more than political suggestions for improvement.

One logical suggestion which is certain to be less than popular among lawmakers is this: The judge, or any other authority who places a convicted criminal back into society, shall take responsibility for any criminal activity resulting in a conviction thereafter, and shall be treated in accordance with the law as an accomplice therein.

As related to the Ocala crime, the judge should go to jail with the murderer and rapist and serve an equivalent sentence. Perhaps the judiciary will then assume some greater responsibility to the general society by thinking before releasing.

John T. Petrick, Largo

Re: the two men charged in the rape and murder of the two college students in Ocala National Forest.

I'm a former resident of Los Angeles and since moving to Florida have felt more vulnerable to crime here than my 11 years in L.A. All the drive-by shootings, automatic teller machine robbers and car-jackers pale in comparison to the "Deliverance" style of criminal that seems to grow in the backwoods down here. I can't ever remember any crime in Los Angeles where the victim was doused with gasoline and set on fire, to mention another example. The justice system does its best to keep them out on the streets, too! Why are they parolled so early? Haven't we learned our lesson yet? I can only assume that if one of these judges' or parole board members' daughter had been raped, robbed and tied to a tree in the Ocala National Forest and left for dead, that they would feel differently. Let's face it, from the west coast of California to the west coast of Florida we have a big problem and I hope the powers that be are listening.

Will these two creatures from the swamp now turn state's evidence against each other, plea bargain, receive a lower sentence and once again be out on your street? The way things are going _ probably.

Scott Rogness, St. Petersburg

I experienced such sadness and frustration as I read about the killing and raping of the brother and sister in the Ocala National Forest.

Can any good possibly come from such a monstrous crime? How do we deal with two men capable of such evil? How do we citizens express adequately our outrage at such a horror?

It occurred to me that there needs to be some sort of "response" that local communities develop to proclaim that we have all been hurt by such an event. We need something that is positive and makes a point that as a community we are not indifferent to what has been done.

If this happened to a law enforcement officer, fellow officers would come from miles around to do honor _ but also to make a statement.

Perhaps we can learn something from those who protect us and pay, sometimes, the ultimate price. Perhaps there is a way to assemble, remember and silently but dramatically protest. And perhaps in doing so, we will give comfort to the family and, in some small way, remind all of us about what eventually happens when even one of us takes advantage of the weak.

Louis R. Garavente, Holiday

My heart goes out to the family of the slain Bartow ice cream vendor.

What's wrong with people who could do something like this? Are they born with something wrong with their brains? They don't have hearts, I do know that. Our system is full of these bad seeds who will continue to destroy lives all their lives. We allow it because they get out and we spend millions to defend them. They should be put away forever. Never see daylight. I can't write in the paper what really should be done them. I hope God deals with them later.

Phil Ferrazano, Clearwater

Our justice system is an utter travesty!

The word "punishment" should be introduced to our English vocabulary.

By definition, the word means a "denial of privileges."

Thanks to our "law-abiding" citizens and the bungling misuse of their monies, our criminals are enjoying every privilege possible.

We don't owe our criminals anything except that they be duly punished for their crimes. The fact is, they are not.

There is no point in building more prisons if we continue to coddle them.

Where is common sense?

Ellen Johnson, Dunedin

Carl Irving's Feb. 14 column, Three Strikes' punishment is built on emotion, not logic, should give a person pause. His liberal views, that are unfortunately shared by many members of Congress, are some of the reasons violent crime is running rampant in this country today.

I would go even beyond the "Three Strikes' Law" he opposes. If a criminal commits a serious or violent felony that puts innocent persons' lives in danger, prison doors should slam shut behind him for at least 25 years. Waiting until the criminal commits two more violent crimes before he is properly incarcerated is like leaving the proverbial "loose cannon" free to prey on innocent citizens.

Judges should be able to sentence hardened criminals without the fear of having some hot-shot appointed defense attorney getting his client off because of a far-out technicality. Laws should immediately be passed that would make current asinine loopholes cease to exist.

The column mentioned that there would be staggering costs to construct more prisons because of the "Three Strikes' Law." People against spending more money for prisons apparently fail to consider the true costs of the current revolving door system. When a violent criminal is arrested and given little or no jail time, it still costs taxpayers many thousands of dollars to pay for appointed defense attorneys and court and other related costs, plus every time this type of criminal is released to the streets, law-abiding citizens are fair game for further heinous acts.

The article mentioned that allocating funds for health care, job training, education and recreation would provide long-term solutions to our crime problem. This might be of help to those who have not yet reached the hardened criminal status. However, it would be of little or no help to most of the violent repeat offenders. It has been proved over and over again that most of them are incorrigible, and no amount of expensive rehabilitation is going to change them.

One of our most pressing crime problems is the proliferation of criminals using guns in the perpetration of their crimes. Laws should be passed that would mandate 25 years, with no parole, for any person who is convicted of using a gun while committing a crime. Such a law would be a step in the right direction if lawmakers are finally really serious about making our streets and neighborhoods safe once again. If criminals really know that they will have to do hard jail time when convicted of committing a crime with a gun, I submit that the amount of gun-related crimes would drop drastically.

Richard Preston, St. Petersburg

I am a great-grandmother who is very concerned about juvenile crime. When we were young, the worst thing that could be said to a misbehaving child was "reform school."

The recent article in the Times titled Vandals to be expelled was shocking. Expelled to what? The streets? More mischief or crime?

I believe we should have reform schools where even the youngest offenders could be sent to learn under strict supervision. They should be taught regular school subjects in an atmosphere of respect, kindness, manners and honesty _ also how to work. We don't need any more prisons where they learn nothing but more crime.

Surely some better way could be found to handle our next generation which, in the long run, could save money and lives.

E. Johnson, Pinellas Park

Re: He wants to stay; they're making him go, Feb. 8.

It's time to stop releasing prisoners due to insufficient prison cells. It looks to me as though we're in need of more prison space, especially when prisoners admit that they will violate, if released. How long will this game of "musical chairs," which our present system has created with prison cells, go on?

Actually, building new prisons could boost the economy by creating new jobs. If the labor is not affordable, though, why not bring back the chain gangs? Let the prisoners break ground and build the much needed new prison walls. I can almost remember the sound of the men, working on the chain gang.

JoAnn Frank, Clearwater

More guilt for mothers?

I would like to take exception to an article in the Feb. 11 Times titled Children of smoking moms have lower IQs.

I, like most mothers of my generation, smoked during my pregnancies with all six of my children. Both of my daughters have received their doctoral degrees. Three of my sons have either their master's degree or bachelor of science in two subjects, and the youngest is the only one who did not go to college. He, however, has advanced to management in his chosen profession.

We mothers carry enough guilt worrying about how we could have done a better job or avoided mistakes in raising our children without being told we injured our offspring by doing something that we did not even know was harmful.

I believe the statement in the article was too broad, especially to us mothers who were wives of regular Army officers and men, and who had to raise our children a great deal of the time alone.

Doris C. Eggleston, St. Petersburg

Almost everyone agrees that cigarette smoking is detrimental to one's health. It is very noble that six surgeons general endorse a smoking ban and the government spends millions for this endorsement.

However, the government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. This same government that endorses no smoking also subsidizes the tobacco industry so that it can spread its poison.

Think about it.

Harold R. Smith, Port Richey

To my mind, it is unfortunate that zealous anti-smoking groups do not appear to have the same concern over something like major crime that they have about people smoking. It has gotten to the point now where smokers are being virtually persecuted in a wave of paranoia and fear-mongering.

I do not defend smoking as a healthy pastime, but I do resent being told when or where I can light up. However, I do refrain from smoking in restaurants, hospitals or areas likely to cause any health problems, real or imagined. I do not see sports arenas or shopping malls in the same category.

W.

H. Morell, Largo

Regarding the recent article about banning smoking everywhere and pricing tobacco products out of the reach of most users, just hold on a darn minute, all you legislators and do-gooders out there. Is this still the home of the free? Is not a man's (woman's, too) home his castle where one can relax from external pressures? Still was, last I heard.

If banning the use of tobacco products is so important, then you are all going about it wrong. Banning by law will lead to an increase in smuggling of contraband, higher taxes for a bigger police force, making criminals out of otherwise normal citizens, lead to killings over turf rights and may even lead to an increase in tobacco use due to the perverse human nature.

There is only one way to get people to stop using tobacco, or, for that matter, any other substance deemed harmful to humans, such as alcohol, cocaine, etc., and that way is education. Take all that money that would be spent on enforcing unenforceable laws and use it for education. It will take a long time to see results, but it is the only way.

Maurice Gjertsen, Brooksville

No invitation for Clinton

Well, Clinton has messed up again. He has bucked Japan; he is standing up for America and American jobs.

So, human nature being what it is, I can't see him and Hillary being invited to Tokyo at the end of his term to give a 20-minute speech for $2- to $3-million as Ron and Nancy did. Can you?

Jim Phillips, New Port Richey

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We invite readers to write to us. Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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