Letters to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, May 09, 2001

Private prison will benefit a few, but not community as a whole

I, too, am concerned over the prison proposal, not just for the manner in which it was fast tracked through the Legislature without voter approval, but for the project itself. The Kenai Peninsula already has two prisons and plans for a Juvenile Detention Center. Are we to become the "Prison Peninsula"? Both city councils have opposed the plan.

In the short term, there will be those who make money selling the land, constructing the prison and building low-cost housing developments. There are certain legislators who will especially profit handsomely. In the long term, will this compensate our community for the enormous infrastructure that must accommodate increased sewage, water, roads and electrical energy?

Residents will have to pay for new schools, a larger police force and feel even more pressure on our overcrowded river activities. In addition, the state will annually pay $8 million more keeping prisoners in Alaska than Arizona. It has been estimated the prison will cost over $100 million to build.

There are social concerns as well. Prisoners will have visitors. Some of their families will move here. (The rationale for bringing prisoners back to Alaska is to be near their families.) If prisoners need to be close to their families, perhaps smaller regional prisons could be built. Private prisons have a poor track record for keeping to their contracts, for security and for paying their personnel a living wage. According to an article in the New York Times, in 1999, Arkansas lost 42 percent of its officers; Oklahoma, 57 percent; and Texas ended up 2,600 officers short.

It might mean more jobs available within the prison, but not necessarily the kind that adequately support families. How will our community accommodate officers who are coming and going from the system? How about their families already existing on low wages? Who picks up the health benefits not covered in their salaries? Who will be held responsible for suits over escapes, violence and other results of poor management? How many residents will volunteer their neighborhoods as locations for halfway houses? Tourists will know what it means when they observe signs warning, "Do Not Pick Up Hitch Hikers for the Next 20 Miles."

This project does not seem compatible with our long-term economic development plans. The only thing that can slow this project down is to contact Gov. Tony Knowles with your concern at either 465-3500 or e-mail: Governor@gov.state.ak.us.

Marge Hays, Soldotna

One remark should not destroy man's reputation, livelihood

I've been waiting for someone to address this, but since it seems no one else is going to, I will. Has it occurred to anyone else, that a man's livelihood and reputation were destroyed by one reporter based on a single careless comment? For those of you who know nothing of the behind-the-scenes precipitation and orchestration of Faron Owen's downfall, doesn't it seem odd to you that all of this furor is over one sentence? There is no pattern of behavior here, no evidence to substantiate that he is a racist other than one statement quoted and misquoted.

A simple remark that "You can buy ivory from drunk Natives in Nome for $5." Would anyone dispute the truth of that? I know I couldn't because I happen to have personally experienced just exactly that when I was in Nome in 1995. I was approached repeatedly. And it has happened to me in Anchorage as well. Not everyone who approached had been drinking, but several noticeably had.

To me, it's the same as, "There are homeless white men begging for money on the street in most major cities." Yes it's a generalization. They aren't all white, nor are they probably all homeless. But the fact is, we generalize all the time. We tell people the food in a restaurant is terrible because we had one bad meal there. We say that a motel is dirty after one experience. We say our "Uncle Fred" can't keep a job because he's lost two. Its a human failing to make generalizations.

I'm making a point of this because I know Faron personally, and have for almost two years. I can say unequivocally that he is one of the least prejudiced men I've ever met.

Did anyone else notice that McKibben Jackinsky only included information in her articles slanted to make Faron look and sound the worst? I know for a fact that many of the people she interviewed had things to say like, "This is not like Faron at all. It was a careless comment. He's not like that."

But we didn't see those kinds of non-inflammatory remarks quoted, did we? All we were allowed to read was what would cause the most reaction, create anger and hurt, further the intolerance, and most of all, get read. People are with news like they are with an accident. No one ever just watches the cars go by, but they sure do if one gets stopped in an accident. And the uglier the accident, the more attention it garners. You can be proud, McKibben; once again, by your biased writing, you've stopped traffic.

And to those who precipitated, orchestrated and applauded his destruction, just remember, "What goes around comes around."

For all the screaming about intolerance and injustice that's gone on the last few weeks, did anyone ever stop and consider that the remark Faron made pales in significance compared to the intolerance shown to him? He's a human with human failings for which he has apologized. Even the President after fornicating in the White House wasn't impeached. And he still gets a huge chunk of pension for having served. Not to mention speaking engagements, business opportunities, etc. for the rest of his life. Faron will be without regular income until he can find another job and get moved since McKibben has ensured he won't find another job in the region or likely not even the state. He gets to lay awake nights worrying about feeding his family of seven.

So, folks, the next time you read one of McKibben's articles, do so with an entire shaker of salt. It'll take that much to get past her intolerance and prejudice to find the little bit of truth she based the whole story on.

Peninsula Clarion, I'll continue tolerating your inaccuracies, bias and yellow journalism only because the classifieds, Dear Abby and the comics are written by someone else. If I want real news, I'll pick up an Anchorage Daily.

Cindy Olds, Kenai

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