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Close boot camps and scrutinize juvenile justice system

I was pleased to hear that the Bay County sheriff ordered his particular boot camp shut, but I join a growing chorus of voices insisting that they all need to be closed. I am a registered Democrat who has long been associated with progressive causes, so it is probably a foregone conclusion that I would be critical of the policies of our present governor. However, I think that even voters and legislators of a more conservative predisposition would have a problem with his endorsement of a boot camp system that is obviously not producing the desired results.

The rate of recidivism for Florida juvenile boot-camp graduates stands at above 60 percent, and it would appear that these camps are no better at accomplishing the rehabilitation of our prodigal youth than is ordinary juvenile detention. Indeed, the Department of Juvenile Justice commissioner, Anthony Schembri, ordered the closure of the boot camp for girls some time back. He was apparently as appalled as I was to hear that we had teenage women "urinating on themselves" out of fear.

Now we have had a male detainee lose his life, and this is not the first such incident. Regardless of what the "investigation" into this death turns up (and it has the suspicious odor of a coverup to me) not only is it time we closed all the boot camps, but clearly our whole system of juvenile justice bears closer scrutiny.

John Feeney, former parliamentarian of the Pinellas

Juvenile Justice Council, Tampa

Abuse is no way to rehabilitate

Re: Boot camp rules likely to cut pain, raise safety, Feb. 24.

Boot camp violence against juveniles is not only physical but vocal and psychological, as evidenced in your Feb. 19 report on a day at the Pinellas County Boot Camp which quotes the boot camp commander's statement to the inmates that "For the next 12 months you are the property of the Pinellas County Boot Camp."

This language dehumanizes the boys by referring to them as "property" and treats them as though they are slaves. And addressing them as "girls" is also abusive language. This behavior can hardly be expected to rehabilitate young offenders, and statistics show that boot camps are failing to do so. They ought to be abolished.

William C. Wilbur, St. Petersburg

Speak against inhumane treatment

I find it hard to understand how constant physical and mental abuse in the boot camps is beneficial to the teenage boys or to our society.

Americans are getting too immune to inhumane treatment, and it is time that we wake up and speak up!

Barbara Ash, Seminole

Property tax fairness is elusive

Re: Pinellas is a pioneer in tracing homestead exemption fraud, letter, Feb. 24.

It was with interest that I read Pinellas County Property Appraiser Jim Smith's Feb. 24 letter - in particular the statement about people "not paying their fair share of property taxes."

With all due respect to Jim Smith, no one in Florida pays their fair share of property taxes, because the state Constitution and the Legislature through the homestead exemption and the 3 percent cap, have made it impossible for property owners to pay a fair share. Some pay too much, some too little.

What Smith means is that some property owners are not paying their legal share of property taxes, which is far different from a "fair" share.

John G. Bassett, St. Petersburg

Public memorials could wake us up

Re: Public property is the wrong place, letter, Feb. 23.

The letter writer stated, "If every family who lost a soldier stationed at MacDill put a memorial at the gate, it would look tacky."

I would say, if every family who lost a soldier in this war - more than 2,280 of them - put a memorial in a public place it would underscore the obscenity of this waste of young lives. And if families and loved ones of the more than 16,700 young people wounded in this war advertised these tragedies, it might help us wake up!

Jean L. Lersch, St. Petersburg

No memorial could be too large

Re: Public property is the wrong place.

This letter said: "If every family who lost a soldier stationed at MacDill put a memorial at the gate, it would look tacky."

Tacky? Evidently the letter writer is not aware that these men and women gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. No memorial for our service people could ever be too large!

Concerning the "tasteless" little crosses on the side of the road, if it gives the sorrowing family some measure of comfort, then they have served a worthwhile purpose.

Carolyn Covell, New Port Richey

Distorting the facts

Re: Regurgitating baseless accusations, Feb. 24.

The letter to the editor by Rep. Tom Feeney's chief of staff distorts the facts. Jason Roe writes that it was Rep. Feeney who contacted the Ethics Committee about his relationship with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, not my organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). This is disingenuous, since Roe well knows that outside groups are barred from filing complaints with the House Ethics Committee. As a result, CREW is unable to file an ethics complaint against Rep. Feeney or any other member of the House.

Moreover, Roe implies that Rep. Feeney must not have done anything wrong since he is not being investigated. This, too, is disingenuous given that despite facing the largest corruption scandal in congressional history, the Ethics Committee has steadfastly refused to examine the matter.

Melanie Sloan, executive director, CREW,

Washington, D.C.

Thoughtless parenting

Re: 62-year-old woman gives birth to a boy,Feb. 20.

I don't feel there's any reason to celebrate a 62-year-old woman giving birth unnaturally. This is a horrible use of the in-vitro fertilization technology. There is a reason the human female body ceases the ability to create life at a certain time, and it goes well beyond the safety of the mother. What kind of person desires to condemn their child to the loss of parents at a fairly young age?

No matter what kind of "love" Janise Wulf and her husband felt they had to give to another child, the fact that they probably won't live past the boy's 25th birthday is a sentence of incredible sadness they've given this child. Did they even think what this boy is going to feel like having parents as old as his friends' great-grandparents? What kind of relationship will they have with him when he's a teenager? Selfishness and self-indulgent, pure and simple. I pity the poor boy.

Tim Robinson, St. Petersburg