RAISE YOUR VOICE: Share your own opinion online at dallasnews.com/sendletters. Sign up for Sounding Off or submit a guest column (and include your full name and contact information) by visiting dallasnews.com/voices.
How should Texas deal with adult inmates who are in prison because of something they did as a juvenile?
Pat Patterson, Plano: Sadly, it’s probably too late for many of these inmates, as the most consistent story you’ll hear from ex-cons is that prison is where they learned how to be “better criminals.” Most likely, the best we can hope for is to segregate all but the most violent juvenile offenders after they graduate from the juvenile detention system. We currently have at least 50 adult state prisons (not counting state jails, transfer facilities, medical facilities, etc., or private prisons) operated by the TDCJ. Surely someone can figure out how to manage the prison population so as to keep the inmates who are in because of crimes committed while they were a kid in dedicated facilities and stop tossing them in with the hardened recidivists who make up such a big part of the remainder of our prison population.
Barbara Hanson, Plano: These inmates who were incarcerated as juveniles and will be released as adults have no idea how to establish themselves in the community, and theres absolutely no reason they should. When I was a banker in the 1980s, I remember going into a prison in Minnesota and talking to the inmates about establishing credit on the outside. Its not hard to establish good credit, but one who has never done it would not know how. I would think the ideal situation would be for community representatives from various businesses to go into the prisons and educate these young men and women about life on the outside. Knowledge is power, and the more information they have prior to being released, the greater the chances they will be able to function in the world.
Amanda Holt, Wylie: It has been scientifically proven that a childs brain is not yet developed at the ages that these kids are when they committed their heinous crimes. Putting them in a juvenile setting until they reach adulthood helps, but only if they get to live like they would on the outside. Decades in prison rarely does anything for society other than keep dangerous men and women away from us as long as possible. Other criminals take their place in the meantime. When these offenders get out, they are usually more dangerous than when they went in. This is the case no matter what age they were when they entered the system. A huge percentage of prisoners are not like you or I am. They were raised on the street and didnt have good people in their lives helping them. They sure wont have anyone helping them upon release.
The adult prisoners and the child prisoners all need programs to help them to become healthy citizens. The world is evolving so fast that no one can keep up, young or old. If they were violent when they went in, they surely will be violent when they get out. There will never be enough money to have programs to rehabilitate. There is not enough money for schools, veterans, health, animal welfare, our down-on-their-luck neighbors, our officers or any worthwhile programs that are sorely needed. Yes, it does all come down to the mighty dollar. Texas will not be able to deal with this crisis.
Texas is not alone in this though. We just have a lot more prisoners than some states. I am surely not looking forward to these men and women joining my community. The answer lies in volunteers. We moan and groan about the way things are, but we never lend a hand to help. For our safety, lets volunteer. It will be a safer world.
Olan Knight, Murphy: The best investment society can make in itself and in its people is education. Inmates should be offered the opportunity for education, either high school/GED or college classes or a trade — and it should cost them something. Whether the cost is public works or community service of some kind, payment should be in the form of something they can do to help society. Those that truly want an education will accept this bargain, the others wont, and wasted effort will be minimized. Ideally payment for the education will be in the form of public works, which serves the purpose of exposing the inmate to the public in a controlled environment and hopefully helping that person reintegrate back into society.
Joe Vaughn, Plano: The Texas prison system should make every effort to educate and prepare the inmate for a successful transition to a new life.
Lee Higdon, Plano: This is not just a Texas problem, its a national problem. Its a national disgrace that so many parents are unprepared to provide an upbringing that would allow their children to fit into the rest of society. Before we even start a dialogue about meting out the right kind of punishment, we have to deal with the problems of generational poverty and its ever worsening condition. Without attacking the root, we are left with two equally, nearly impossible choices: trying to figure how to rehabilitate offenders or keeping them locked up for life. Once we institutionalize these youth, they face conditions that will only ensure their reintroduction to society will be a train wreck. I wish wed spend as many calories trying to solve this problem as we do about who marries whom and whether or not Obama and Trump are two halves of the Great Satan.
Garry Beckham, Plano: By the time these kids get into jail, many are lost forever. A big part of this story isnt what can be done in jail, but what has to be done before a child ever gets into jail. The state needs to start taking at-risk kids away from their parents and moving them into a controlled environment, such as a state- or church-run boarding school. Parents who are habitually put in jail, use drugs as a daily routine and do not have the wherewithal to raise children should not be allowed to keep their children. A tough position, but a necessary action.
Charles Raper, Plano: Those who are non-violent should be paroled to the ACLU which would be responsible for their actions.
Arnell L. Engstrom, Plano: Rationally, jailed young criminals need to be taught lawful occupations and given extensive counseling before they are released to enhance the chances they do not return to even more serious criminal activities. However, the better option is intervention before they become young offenders in the first place. Perhaps that is easier said than done, but the dysfunctional families that most come from are the root cause of them committing crimes and getting into trouble initially.
Gerry Hudman, Plano: It doesnt matter when an inmate entered the system. Common sense and compassion compel us to prepare all returning inmates for successful re-entry into society. What does that look like? Psychological and substance abuse therapy, education, job and job-seeking training would be a good start. Punishment is a perfectly valid rationale for imprisonment, but while weve got them there, lets do our best to rehabilitate them.
Jerry Frankel, Plano: Juvenile inmates should receive a proper education and/or technical training so they have a better chance of supporting themselves after release as opposed to returning to a life of crime. Every effort should be made to assist those being released after serving their time for non-violent crimes. However, upon the release of those who have committed violent crimes, parole officers and law enforcement should be given ample resources to monitor their activities. The rehabilitation of violent criminals leaves a lot to be desired, and public safety is the No. 1 priority for law-abiding citizens.
Ted Gold, Plano: This is a tough one. If you do the crime, you must do the time. But what if good civic-minded individuals and businesses “adopted” and mentored an inmate while they were in prison? Upon their release they could move in with their mentor, and the mentors will either give them a job or help to get a job for them. The mentors will help guide the former inmate back into the life of a responsible citizen. Any volunteers?
Fill out my Wufoo form!