Source:   Times Press Recorder
Contact:  Letters to the Editor  PO Box 460  Arroyo Grande, CA 93421
Pubdate:  Wed, 12 Aug 1998
Section:  opinion, page 6B


To the Editor:

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its
prisons," Fyodor Dostoevsky.

As a prison psychologist, I cannot stress strongly enough how vital it is
that the general public understand the im-plications of the investigation
now under way in the state legislature regarding the Corcoran State Prison.

Most people who have read the recent coverage will likely dismiss it from
their thoughts very quickly, believing that it only involves the rights of
a few criminals, hardly a priority for most of us.

A few will even think the officers being investigated did a good thing by
killing and abusing inmates, probably saved the taxpayers some money, and
should be rewarded rather than punished.

The truth, however, is that brutality, whether between inmates or between
custody staff and inmates, is not limited to one or two correctional
facilities; it occurs with regularity throughout system and it affects us
in ways which we seldom consider.

I am aware of a number of cases of individuals who were raped in prison,
often at a young age, and subsequently committed rape-murders or other
vicious sexual offenses. Unfortunately most of us have bought into the
"lock 'em up and throw away the key" mentality without noticing that it not
only doesn't work, it's costing us a fortune and creating large numbers of
extremely dangerous individuals, most whom will eventually be released back
into society, with no skills, no hope, nothing to lose, and a lot of pent
up rage.

These people (mostly men) are not some nebulous "Them." They're "Us," our
husbands, brothers, uncles, sons and cousins, and in California, their
numbers are increasing at an ominous rage. If we continue to let fear,
ignorance and arrogance fuel our public policy; if we continue to single
out certain groups and scapegoat them; if we continue to let our elected
officials get away with offering us simple-minded solutions to complex
problems because we're just too busy or too numb to think for ourselves, we
may be quite literally signing our own death warrant.

I sincerely hope that this investigation will extend far beyond the alleged
events at Corcoran and that it will cause widespread re-evaluation of how
the people of California are dealing with the problems of drugs and crime.
Clearly incarceration alone is not the answer.

Jay Adams, Ph.D.
Paso Robles

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Checked-by: (Joel W. Johnson)