Letters to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Governor's veto could stop private prison boondoggle

Thanks to a flood of campaign contributions and virtually without debate, Alaska's legislators approved squandering at least $9 million dollars a year over current prison costs to fund a private Kenai jail. Only a veto from Gov. Tony Knowles may stop this pillaging of the public treasury.

Normally, the "Rent-a-pen" industry claims it can save money over that spent by the public sector. Even this fig leaf is dispensed with in the Kenai boondoggle.

This prison is supposedly being built, not to make instant millionaires out of a crew of insiders, but to bring Alaska Native prisoners "home" from Florence, Ariz. But no one says exactly how many Natives, if any, are there, or how many, if returned, might be more likely to maintain family contact than they do now. Actually, virtually no families will find themselves any more able to visit prisoners than if these inmates were still held Outside.

The tribe involved indicates it will somehow be able to craft a program to "rehabilitate" these few, yet cannot demonstrate any prior expertise or interest, nor research which suggests such a program exists anywhere in the United States.

On the contrary. If it's built, it will not reduce the disgracefully disproportionate incarceration of Alaska Natives: It will provide additional capability to jail hundreds more. It will foreclose options such as constructing regional facilities to actually do what this scam claims it will accomplish.

Though its proponents swear it will produce local jobs, at current wages, Cornell will compete with McDonald's for employees. Exaggerating its potential payroll by perhaps 600 percent, it assumes any hamburger flipper has the aptitude and temperament to work inside. Its practice of issuing keys and badges to virtually anyone has resulted in Cornell's non-professionals facilitating escapes, beatings and sexually abusing prisoners from one end of the country to the other.

If you think every man, woman and child in Alaska should lose $15 per year in services, or see your permanent fund dividends eventually cut by that amount as oil revenues drop, then by all means tell your legislators that you would rather have Alaska's scam artists have your share.

Frank Smith, Bluff City, Kan.

(Frank Smith works in Barrow as a court-appointed child advocate. A graduate of San Francisco State University with an emphasis in Corrections, he has 30 years experience in criminal justice, ex-offender and substance abuse treatment and research, and social services. He has directed programs in Palmer and Sutton prisons and has visited Alaska prisons and inmates from Barrow to Seward to Arizona, as well as visited jails in many states and overseas.)

Criticism of commercial fishing industry sets poor example

In response to the letter to the editor dated May 18 (slogans for the commerical fishery): Sir, if you and your wife have that kind of brain power and time on your hands to come up all those ideas, why didn't you continue with the in-river fishery that is destroying a way of life for those who live on the Kenai Peninsula year-round and used to enjoy the Kenai River years ago before it became like fishing in downtown Los Angeles?

From your article, I gather that you only care about yourself and what you have -- much like many other folks who have small minds and grand ideas of themselves.

Please, folks, don't injure the brain cells you have left cutting each. The next generation of leaders is watching you, looking for role models who they can respect, not reject.

Do you know that 20 youths last year restored nearly one-half mile of habitat on the Kenai River system with the financial sponsorship of many, including the commercial fishing industry of the Cook Inlet region? Do you also know that 117 sponsors nationwide are supporting the largest youth effort ever to restore habitat on the Kenai River system and help build new coho rearing habitat, so sport fishermen can catch silvers on the Kenai? Do you know that the oil industry, commercial fishing industry, corporate America, Native organizations environmental organizations and the construction industry, as well as government agencies, are all working together to provide support and contributions to make this possible?

So, next time you open your mouth, think. There's a lot of people who are helping you so you can catch a salmon or make a buck. I personally don't want our next generation of leaders to be learning from folks who are short-sighted and only have one or two brain cells left.

Kelly Wolf, Executive director Youth Restoration Corps

(With a proud record of youth restoring nearly 1-1/2 miles of river habitat in Southcentral Alaska -- Cook Inlet Region -- since 1997)

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