Pubdate: Thu, 22 Aug 2002
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2002 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Ronald C. Pilenzo, Hobe Sound


I was appalled after reading "Death Row inmates say their cells too hot" 
(Aug. 8). Being tough on crime is one thing, but treatment bordering on 
torture is unconscionable. Forcing inmates to stand in toilets and sleep 
naked on concrete floors to beat 100-degree heat is more than just inhumane 
treatment. Most Floridians would be outraged if their pets were treated the 
same way.

Who looks out for the humane treatment of those behind bars? Certainly not 
the lawyers for the attorney general's office who claim that these 
conditions "are not severe enough to violate the constitution," or Caryl 
Killinski, the state attorney in this case, who stated that "it gets warm 
in any building not air-conditioned." I wonder if she puts her feet in the 
toilet while she works in her office?

With 2 million people behind bars (an international disgrace), Americans 
should be concerned more about alternatives to prison, and not with laws 
that incarcerate more and more people. The cost to taxpayers for building 
more prisons is minimal compared with the price we pay as a society.

Under the law, inmates are afforded the right to medical care and 
reasonable accommodations but not luxuries. Prisons are not comfort zones, 
as some believe. A quick tour of a local prison would dispel that notion. 
But, with most civil rights taken away, inmates (mostly impoverished 
minorities) are at the mercy of those who care least. And as citizens, we 
should be concerned about not only how inmates are treated but the price 
being paid by children of inmates, their families and society as a whole.

I believe in law and order and incarcerating those who break the law. But, 
our penal systems ignore the reality of the reentry of the majority of the 
2 million criminals behind bars, who are put back on the streets of Florida 
and America by the hundreds of thousands each year. Considering that we 
have abandoned rehabilitation as a method of preventing a return to prison, 
the lack of training in job skills and adequate drug-rehabilitation 
programs, the question we have to ask ourselves is this: How will these 
felons view fellow citizens when they are released?
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