Letter to the Editor / Online Comments

BY DI READERS | MAY 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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Volunteering works in prison

For four years, I have been a volunteer at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in the Oakdale Community Choir. In the winter of 2009, I took the basic workshop offered by the Alternatives to Violence Project that was being facilitated at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility by Joan Rinner, Dorothy Whiston, Tammy Orr, and Marian Klosterman. That program no longer exists at Mount Pleasant because of the lack of outside facilitators.

In 2010, Whiston, Kathleen Crose, Klosterman, and Michael Hardesty started Alternatives to Violence at the Medical and Classification Center. Current outside Alternatives to Violence facilitators at the facility include Annie Tucker, Orr, Lois Crane, Bella DeSoriano, Stan Sanders, Rinner, and me. There are more than a dozen inside facilitators at the center now and long waiting lists for workshops.

Annie Tucker and I toured the Johnson County jail recently. Along with facilitating Alternatives to Violence, Tucker is a mediator in both Johnson and Linn County courts systems, as is Crane. During our tour of the jail, we sensed a philosophical difference between the two institutions, particularly in the treatment of inmates. The difference we perceived is not just a matter of the additional space available for volunteer programs, a garden and exercise yard, and jobs at the Medical and Classification Center, it is the spirit of the volunteer programs peopled by inmates (e.g., hospice) as well as community volunteers.

Among the programs currently active at the center are the Oakdale Community Choir, Alternatives to Violence Project, Hubbub Job Club, Writers’ Workshop, Songwriters’ Workshop, Incarcerated Vets, AA, New Directions, GED tutoring, to name a few. The philosophy behind these programs is social rehabilitation, an important contrast to the punitive motivation for incarceration. We have found center Warden Daniel Craig and his staff to be exceptional people.

Volunteers can drive change if they are given the opportunity go into the jail and start programs that have been available at the Medical and Classification Center for a years. It should not be left to chance just how much of the huge addition on the Courthouse will be allotted to volunteers and the healthy treatment of those who are incarcerated. For years, volunteers have asked to offer friendship, religious and spiritual choice, and opportunities for change to the people who are incarcerated in the jail. Vote yes, and then go and volunteer for transformation. The world is run by those who show up.

Patricia L. Knox, Alternatives to Violence, Oakdale Community Choir
Mary Trachsel, Writers’ Workshop, Oakdale Community Choir
Mary L. Cohen, director of theOakdale Community Choir, Songwriters’ Workshop

RE: “First openly gay bishop talks marriage equality in Iowa City”

Religious people are stuck in their ways and hate anything that seems to go against it. Gay people are so loving and caring and accepting that they are God’s true disciples. I swear. I am happy for this man for coming forward speaking real truth. Love from Japan.

Aimee Wou

If you’re going to use religion for argument, it’s not something that requires interpretation. The Bible very plainly states that homosexuality is wrong, and an abominable sin. Forget religion, though, and it’s still wrong. It completely goes against nature to act on any homosexual urges. Humans are animals like anything else, and animals pair up with someone of the opposite sex. A male and a female is the only way life can continue for any species. With that being said, any logical thinker can realize that nothing or nobody is born gay. It’s a choice that sick individuals make that completely goes against nature. It’s no different than a child molester’s attraction to kids. It’s wrong and should be looked at no differently. To call these issues “civil rights” and treat these people as if they’re a race that deserves special treatment is one of the dumbest things modern society has ever done. Unfortunately for those of us who believe in the natural way of life, there’s nothing much we can do. We just get to sit and watch the world go straight down the toilet. Too bad for us.

Eddie Vaughn

RE: “Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ on the Justice Center”

And you have still failed to explain why a new jail has to be tied in to new courthouse facilities. To me, these sound like separate issues, but they keep getting lumped together. I have yet to see a single Yes voter explain this in all of the lopsided amount of Yes articles you have plastered all over your newspaper for the past several weeks. You have also failed to address why Johnson County’s prison population has grew at an exponentially faster rate than the population of the county. We jail more and more people every year, but the idea of “build and they will fill it” is somehow naïve? What else would they do with all that additional jail space?

Sean Jones

You’re right — they don’t have to be tied in. It’s simply much more efficient to do it that way. It’s easier to accept if you agree with the proposed capacity.

Also, no matter how the prison population has grown with relation to county population, our incarceration rate is still less than half of the national average. I can cite sources if you like.

Finally, even if the proposed jail is of a larger capacity than we currently need (I don’t agree), that means it will be useful years longer than projected — hardly a horrible problem.

Donald Baxter

Many undecideds out there yet. The Daily Iowan wrote this very well with common sense. They do not want to keep kicking the can down the road. They want to stop sending all that taxpayer money out of county in rent and want to buy and build the equity.

Lonny Pulkrabek

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