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PA, prisons and the death penalty: The state is behind

The revolving door for men released from state prisons in Pennsylvania is at least four out of 10 return to prison within less than two years. This figure had been steady this way until last May.

Then, with new educational skill programs and other innovativer programs in PA prisons, the rate has begun to drop, but not significantly.

In the State of New York, for example, they have a much better success rate, as they have instituted very innovative marketing skill programs for inmates, who can lessen their time in prison by demonstrating a sincere commitment to marketable training programs that actually prepare them for good paying jobs when they get released.

It is hard enough to obtain a job today, even with skills, but with a criminal record, it is almost impossible.

White collar criminals, of course, do better when they get out, because they have skills and contacts and usually family support systems in place. But your average convict in prison comes out with no marketable skills, no family support systems in place, and even negative living arrangements.

So, they resort to doing criminal activity to survive. Also our prisons have been places where inmates with severe mental problems and ongoing drug problems come out with the same or even worse exciting internal problems then when they went into prison.

Prisons should certainly not be places to just be warehousing prisoners for mental and drug problems.

Our Secretary of Corrections in PA, John Wetzel and his staff, who was there under Gov. [Ed] Rendell, and Gov. [Tom] Wolf then asked them to stay on, was a wise decision.

We do need legislation in Pennsylvania that will give definite incentives and time credit to inmates who apply themselves to marketable skill programs, so they have the real interest to develop a skill set.

We also must have legislation that will give tax credits to businesses who hire people with criminal records.

The one very rare program in New York State in several state prisons is to develop men who already have the intelligence and teach them about current social issues in America, and how to debate those issues in a public setting, no matter what side of the issue they are given.

Can you even imagine the outstanding debate team members from Harvard who just won the National Championship for Colleges in America, coming to a prison in New York State with independent outside judges - some from the national championships - and the inmates were given the debate issues only three weeks before the contest, beating Harvard decisively!

The debate team members in prison were coached by debaters from Bard College. I realize this is but one unusual example, but many of these debaters from the prison then got full scholarships to colleges like Yale and Columbia when they get out.

New York State and other states are way ahead of us in truly preparing inmates for when they get out. Not just with marketable skill sets, but with real treatment for mental conditions and drug addictions outside of a prison setting,

Their "revolving doors" for inmates have shown tremendous improvement. I realize there are many victims of crimes who want the state prisons to be places where inmates are just kept in cells and not given these opportunities.

But, America has more people in prisons than any other country on the planet. Also, the overwhelming majority [of inmates] are Black and Hispanic.

A society is judged by how it treats its prisoners. I am not a proponent of a life sentence without the possibility of parole in all cases. There must be exceptions, depending on the cases.

I am not against the death penalty under certain circumstances, but the average wait for the sentence of death, is at least 23+ years from the date of sentencing, and the appeal process is so costly to this country, that I wonder if we should do away with the death penalty like so many other civilized countries have, and many states in our own country.

It has been proven not to be a deterrent to such crimes. And possibly in those cases, life without the possibility of parole would be a better solution.

The exorbitant time and millions of dollars we must spend to fight to keep the death penalty being imposed on those sentenced is just not worth it anymore, and the victims and their families never get any peace or closure, as they wait 23+ years, and then the sentence of death is never carried out.

Last time in PA we executed someone was in the early [19]70s. Gov. Wolf has placed a moratorium on death penalty cases. He wants to have the already established commission study the issue on several levels. I would say now that in 15 years capital punishment will be outlawed in Pennsylvania. What do you think?

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