Battling recidivism

After his "night in jail," Thoreau surmised that most of his neighbors did not know jails existed. I would surmise that most of our neighbors don't know that the aftermath of jail/prison can be more difficult than the incarceration itself. Your article "From freedom to failure" (cover story, Jan. 7), increases our awareness.

Since I was quoted, I want to clarify one thing: I do not have all the answers to the recidivism issue. If I did, I'd write a book and make a million. Therefore, I have the highest regard for people who manage re-entry programs.

El Paso County makes a good effort with a jail-based program to reduce recidivism. The staff does a credible job under difficult circumstances. They have modest successes. Their programs are challenged and limited by the shortage of available resources. This is not the fault of the sheriff or his staff. You can teach a man to fill out a job application — but if there are no jobs, well, you see.

Jason Horn is well aware of his own responsibility for his situation. Every program of which I am aware places clear and heavy emphasis on personal responsibility. The best personal motivation, however, can end in discouragement and failure without adequate community reintegration resources.

When someone goes to jail, he often loses his job, apartment, car, money, household goods and, tragically, friends and family support. Upon release, he can easily find himself among the homeless.

The state houses more than 23,000 inmates. God knows how many more are in county and city jails. The majority will return to the community. We are safer if they are received with humane support and creative systems of accountability that preclude further legal trouble.

— Stephen Handen

Colorado Springs


Permanente problems

I had to reapply for Kaiser Permanente insurance when I moved back to Colorado from California in November 2009, even though I'd been a member in California for 2½ years, and a member in Colorado before that. Surely I'm in Kaiser's databases — and they claim to be on health-care technology's cutting edge — and yet I had to fill out the 20-page application again! All those poorly worded questions trying to trick me into spilling out a pre-existing condition. And for what? So they could approve me, give me a quote, and then raise my premium without notification in January 2010.

Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, like their credit-card company brethren, abuse American citizens. We need a public option to provide competition to these lying, swindling, murderous companies. President Obama and Congress want to compromise with them. I'd be clapping and cheering if our government forced these companies out of business. What would happen to their employees and their families? They would have to seek more life-affirming work.

Give Americans the choice of a public option, and hold insurance companies to the same anti-trust laws as other companies.

— Christopher Jenner


Follow your compass

It has been over a year, and a final piece of legislation to overhaul our health care still evades Americans. While the Democratic caucus works on marrying the two versions of the bill, Republicans talk about how they plan to run on overturning it. Republicans want to overturn a bill that will give millions of Americans access to basic health care, and in my eyes a human right.

I am personally tired of hearing people talk about how much this legislation will cost. A price cannot and should not be put on life. I ask, those of you who are opposed to health care reform, where is your moral compass? Why are you against allowing your fellow Americans access to health care?

People don't choose to get sick, they don't choose to be born with disabilities, or develop cancer, and they should not be punished for coming into such circumstances. Employers should not have to choose between profits and providing health insurance to employees. Families should not have to choose between paying for medical care and groceries. Women should not have to pay more for coverage, simply because they are women.

As it stands now, this is what is happening, and those of you against the health-care reform movement are condoning such behavior. Legislators against reform are condoning such behavior. You are all fighting a piece of legislation that will improve the lives of countless Americans — have you considered that?

I beg you to think about the people, the families and the businesspeople who are the backbone of our economy and reconsider your position. Rediscover your moral compass and remind yourself that it is the people who make up this country; we should do everything we can to take care of the people.

— Lawrance Reyes

Colorado Springs

Don't forget DIY

Despite the anti-federal-government haranguing one reads daily, there is a need for some governance at the national level. An impartial "traffic cop" is needed to ensure our Constitution's rights are honored. A national government ensures that our nation's public resources are managed for the benefit of all. Additionally, a national government is needed for the common defense and for managing our interstate transportation system.

However, there is little else with which a national government should be involved.

Unfortunately, many in and out of Washington view the federal government as their personal savior. They want "Big Brother" to take care of them. The most recent example is the proposed national health care system being debated in Congress. When will the American people see that there are real negative consequences when you ask government to take care of your every need?

We can't afford this extravagant spending policy. It's painfully obvious that the legislative branch of our federal government lacks any fiscal discipline. Unsustainable spending will bankrupt our nation and leave a fiscal mess for future generations. These spendthrift ways are significantly contributing to our nation's debtor status.

It is time for Americans to speak out and insist that their representatives vote against such spending. In addition to these large and unsustainable spending bills, members of Congress from both parties load up spending bills with earmarks (aka "pork"), mostly for their benefit, not ours. As a guard against such spending, we should urge our elected leaders to give the president a line-item veto authority.

There are risks in giving more and more power to the federal government. Have we forgotten the lessons of history? Remember what happened to the Greek and Roman empires, to Germany under Hitler, or to Russia under communism? When you ask the state to do for you what you should do for yourself, you risk the loss of your personal liberty.

— Lawrence M. Reisinger

Colorado Springs

No tears for Stormwater

I don't agree with the tactics used to dismantle the Stormwater Enterprise (SWE). Nor have I ever supported anything Doug Bruce has put on the ballot.

That being said, the best thing that could have happened to the Fountain Creek watershed is Stormwater's demise. Projects like the Gold Hill Mesa flood-control work along U.S. 24 between 21st and Eighth streets are a perfect example of the environmental destruction wrought on our watershed by this entity. Depriving SWE of funding to continue its expensive ($3.2 million) and outdated engineering techniques (1950s-style channel straightening and armoring) is the watershed's first bright spot in years, with the noted exception of the excellent work by Manitou Springs in partnership with the Fountain Creek Restoration Project, Trout Unlimited and Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Now maybe we can focus on real restoration instead of continued channelization, turning it into a glorified drainage ditch. SWE calls it "restoring" this stretch of the creek. When was the last time you saw a mountain stream that was arrow-straight, didn't meander and was lined with concrete? I say goodbye, SWE, and good riddance.

As a small prod to the public, watch your wallets but don't close them completely. The new Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District has the authority to propose new taxes/fees on you to manage some projects. No one likes new taxes and fees but, frankly, a lot of work needs to be done to restore our creeks and streams. We should support the new district, but we must hold them accountable to deliver real restoration, not of the kind SWE is practicing on Fountain Creek.

In the end it's cheaper, more effective and better for the environment to work with Mother Nature instead of trying to overcome her.

— Jack Hunter, president

Cheyenne Mountain Chapter, Trout Unlimited

Colorado Springs

Reviewing reviews

News stations compiled their Top 10 lists of moments that made the decade. The rise of gossip media and Britney Spears shaving her head have made the list. Where are the truly monumental moments that reached past trash media and truly impacted our lives?

Somehow, Heath Ledger's death holds more weight than President Bush declaring war on Iraq. We all know what it means to pull a Columbine, as its eerie remnants echo through campus killings, including Virginia Tech.

We've learned to associate terror with skin color and culture, easily forgetting the domestic terror that happens across America. Somehow, a father slipping into his daughter's bed is less important than imposing our idea of freedom on a country thousands of miles away. Our soldiers lying dead in the sand have become the new face of patriotism.

People live in Tent City, along Interstate 25 and other areas in Colorado Springs, driven there by adjustable-rate mortgages and unemployment while our city offers $53 million in incentives to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee from moving. The poor are left to suffer and die, yet their deaths get less airtime than the increase in cosmetic surgeries.

We should look at how our media perpetuates ignorance. Realize this was a decade of indifference: that we are no longer surprised by deaths in Iraq or Afghanistan or pictures of prisoner abuse; the poor continue to suffer; children in less-affluent areas, and around the world, still get hookworm and other diseases for want of shoes, while celebrities spend over $1,000 on a pair of shoes.

Resolve, as a new decade begins, to open your eyes to these disparities. See your contribution to the media mentality that seeks to dictate importance. Recognize what is truly worth fighting for and what can be done without.

— Brandi Ballard

Colorado Springs

Democracy lost

Thank goodness blogs are addressing and running photos of the true cost of war (i.e., Brave New Foundation). For the most compelling photos ever of what war has cost and is costing us, please google "Colorado Springs 2007 St. Patrick's Day Parade," and pull up "Colorado Springs police assault senior peace protesters." See the photo of Elizabeth Fineron, the 65-year-old, fully disabled former nun whose "crime" was wearing a green shirt with a peace sign on it and asking why police were hurting and intimidating the peaceful people who marched with a permit.

The torture and brutality and removal of human(e) and civil rights of everyday people who had marched the year before without incident in the same parade, both years with a permit, speaks volumes. Such removal is "spook"-directed in the super fusion center of Colorado Springs. Most sadly, these and so many other atrocities (which people seeking justice are in the process of verifying for the U.S. Department of Justice) indicate a police state of the most nightmarish nature, and a total loss of the freedom and democracy for which so many patriotic men and women have donned uniforms and fought and died. Freedom and democracy are gone and have been replaced by a takeover of the greedy and power-addicted few.

Photos of this loss of democracy should be displayed on blogs, along with photos and information regarding those suffering in this Wall Street-manipulated, economic near-depression, since, along with the loss of assurance that votes will be allowed and counted countrywide (particularly urgent in "close elections"), a loss of democracy constitutes the true cost of constant war.

— Rita Ague

Colorado Springs

Evangelism defined

Our city is full of Christian groups and headquarters, but also many atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and other types of believers. So we need a new evangelist lexicon to sort out some confusions about how our friends at Focus on the Family and evangelical churches define certain terms, as contrasted, perhaps, with other non-evangelistic folks. Hence, an Evangelist Dictionary:

Homosexual: a person who enjoys sex in some ways we don't. An ancient holy book, the Bible, says it is a "sin."

Bisexual: a person who we suspect might have twice as much fun at sex as the rest of us do.

Heterosexual: good sexual practice unless you get too creative.

Liberal: a person who probably wants to start taxing church property.

Pro-choice: somebody who thinks individual decisions are better than church decisions.

Home schooling: a really good way to protect your child from learning about beliefs other than yours. A way to pretend you and your spouse know more about history, English, chemistry, biology and math than trained and certified specialists teaching in public schools.

Bible: infallible, even though it was written by men who could not have known anything about modern science.

Science: a bunch of theories that keep changing.

Evolution: merely a theory that the world and humans were created over billions of years by natural forces, instead of the obviously more believable idea that an anthropomorphic being swooped down from the sky, gathered up dust and made the first man, then took a rib out of him and made the first woman. We don't want to think about who their children had sex with to produce the next generation.

James Dobson: our hero.

Ted Haggard: don't ask.

In the spirit of clarification, use this handy lexicon for best results.

— Larimore Nicholl

Colorado Springs

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