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Public remains wary of criminal justice

Your March 20 editorial, Unwarranted hysteria, makes several good points but may misinterpret public reaction and miss part of the boat leaving the pier. Most of the public is not "hysterical" because of the early release of felons from state prisons. The sense seems to be more anger and outrage based on an inappropriate outcome and results that contravene public safety and common sense.

I believe the official actions are in accord with the legal standards applied, but this doesn't mean I think the reasons for incarceration and personal accountability for criminal behavior have been satisfied. I think the results make the law appear foolish or dangerous to the public eye.

The editorial is another sign of the level of public insecurity, experience with recidivism, faltering faith in the criminal justice system, victim rights pressures, media sensationalism, political exploitation and other factors. As with many tensions in America, the reaction is heavily influenced by perceptions rather than knowledge or information. What most Americans do know is that we still face too many violent crimes and property offenses.

The law would do well to heal itself as a social institution and the measure taken of the public is best done in human terms and not by statistics alone.

James R. Gillespie, St. Petersburg

McDougall is right

Re: Sheriff tells tourists to stay away, March 15.

Three cheers for Lee County Sheriff John McDougall! He's the one who had the guts enough to say on national TV, "We have thousands of felons on the streets. They shouldn't be there. They're very violent. Until we can get them picked up and back in jail, we're going to have a very serious problem."

He was referring to the early release of at least 500 murderers, rapists and other violent convicts _ a release that was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court (all lawyers).

Of course, the reaction to the sheriff's comments by tourism interests was negative. But the comment by Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay was pitiful. He was quoted: "That sheriff ought to be thinking about what we can do, instead of sitting there sucking his thumb."

To his credit, Sheriff McDougall did not back down. He said, "All I can say is, I told the truthI don't consider myself a politicianI consider myself a lawman."

MacKay's solution to the problem is pitifully naive and irrational. In effect, he said, "We'll pass another law so that any released inmates will be sentenced to at least twice as much time as what they had shaved from their sentences if they commit another crime."

That's a typical politician's answer to crime. If a released murderer murders someone else and if he's caught and charged, it'll be years before he's punished, if ever. But what about the victim, Mr. MacKay? He, or she, will be long dead and gone!

About 150 years ago, in his story Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens had Mr. Bumble say, "The law is a ass!" Mr. Bumble was right then and Sheriff McDougall is right today!

Donald G. Peck, Spring Hill

Re: On national TV, sheriff tells tourists to stay away, March 15.

How refreshing to learn there is one person in Florida willing to tell the truth. Thank you, Sheriff John McDougall of Lee County.

The bureaucrats, meanwhile, kept trying to push the crazy aunt back into the attic. If you don't see her, she doesn't exist: total denial about a dangerous situation we Floridians and all tourists now have to contend with, created by the best and brightest money could buy.

Cay Prante, St. Petersburg

Meddling in marriage

Re: Lawmakers set to meddle with marriage, by Robyn Blumner, March 16.

In a misguided attempt at reinventing Ozzie and Harriet's marriage in Florida, the Christian Coalition, a k a the Florida Legislature, is set not only to bar recognition of gay marriages but to require the counseling of couples before marriage or divorce.

Does anyone possessing gray matter actually believe that this intrusion of government into their personal freedom will somehow preserve the nuclear family? Family life in 1997 is not defined by the 40 year old Ozzie and Harriet television sit-com, but by the personal choice of individuals.

Marriage and family take many forms based on personal choice. There are traditional marriages of one man and one woman, some choose to have children and others do not. There are inter-racial couples who choose to marry. Gay and Lesbian marriage, although not recognized in this country also exists. There are blended families that are formed when divorced people choose to re-marry. An elderly couple caring for a orphaned child is a family. A single parent and a child is a family. Gay and lesbian couples are also families.

In their zeal to bar gay and lesbian marriage and preserve traditional marriage by resurrecting Ozzie and Harriet, the state Legislature is chipping away at our freedom to choose both our marriage partners and who our families will be are made up of. Where will it end? Will it end with your family?

Roland R. Medeiros, Brooksville

A fence fan

I don't understand the controversy over the green fence at Walgreens. Having worked in that area for five years, I welcome a place to shop without having to keep the eyes in the back of my head aimed at my truck.

At the other small stores, I have to keep my stops short or all my tools will be gone. There's just too many people shuffling around the area to feel secure. My hat's off to you Walgreens.

Wally Brown, St. Petersburg

Smoke gets in their lungs

With all the well-documented evidence proving the dangers of second-hand cigarette smoke, why do so many adults continue to smoke around our youths? Daily I have witnessed persons smoking in the presence of infants and toddlers. You can see it happening in restaurants. You can watch it as you travel on the roads as smokers puff away in their vehicles, often with the windows rolled up.

Let's give our children a chance at a healthy life. If you must smoke, please do so away from your young ones. In this way, we may be able to keep a generation healthy and happy.

L.J. Hall, Bayonet Point

White House "deja vu'

Re: Nanny Bill, letter, March 16.

Although I am in sympathy with most of the letter writer's comments, I must on his "b" item remind him of some previous adulterous history in the White House. Franklin D. Roosevelt's lover, Lucy Mercer, lived in the White House, acted as Roosevelt's cocktail hostess and was with him when he suffered his fatal heart attack at his cottage at Warm Springs, Ga.

Frankly, if Hillary isn't complaining, I'm not. Besides, she has probably already discussed it with Eleanor.

Mary MacMinn, St. Petersburg

Voter reality

Re: On the wrong side of finance reform, March 20.

The column by Martin Dyckman on campaign finance reform shows once again just how much your editorial staff is out of touch with reality. Most Americans neither want nor care about campaign reform.

The amount of money required now to effectively reach the voting public and get a message across is staggering. Like it or not, the quick sound bite, broadcast dozens of times a day, on hundreds of television stations across the country, is the only way to get the attention of the voter. It takes huge sums of money to do this.

Most voters no longer have an attention span that is long enough to allow them to read and understand a thoughtful, lengthy position paper. Too bad, this would save millions in campaign expenditures and allow almost anyone, regardless of income or personal wealth, to run for public office.

I recently read an article in one of the national news magazines that said that 51 percent of Americans get their news from TV shows like Inside Edition or newspapers like the National Inquirer. Scary!

Frank Soder, Palm Harbor

Not so perfect

Re: She'll take Manhattan, March 17.

I'm sure glad my wife does not like the "Perfect Dress." She is petite and has the figure of a 20 year old. The "Perfect Dress" is something OLD women would wear.

Maybe with more graceful shoes it would look better.

Art Adams, Redington Beach

It was just a kiss

Re: New federal rules say boy's kiss was just a kiss, March 14.

I was relieved to hear that the young schoolboy was absolved by the U.S. Department of Education of sexual harassment for kissing his first-grade classmate.

I, too, stole a kiss from my first-grade sweetheart! At this late date, would this fond memory become something to nag at my conscience, or if this were to be discovered in someone's repressed memory, would the local school authorities search for me?

Have no fear. The locals have now been told "that you must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss."

P. S. She returned the kiss.

O. A. Henry, St. Petersburg

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