Letters to the Editor

Scientific and medical advances today are pushing the viability of the unborn baby earlier into the pregnancy cycle. Will we still be debating this subject when technology can finally provide an artificial womb?

Gerard A. Nieters

To the Editor:
I enjoyed your article. It is a sad commentary that our elected representatives will use any issue to try to get a vote. Regardless of which side of this issue you are for, there are no easy choices. That is why it should be left to the individuals who are involved, not someone who is always running for office.

Charles W. Jones III
Longwood, Fla.

CELL THEORY

To the Editor:
Flattening the old city jail years before the new city jail is open will necessitate well over 1,000 unnecessary trips by accused violent offenders for years in rush-hour traffic between Clayton and downtown instead of taking the secure route of "prison elevator to prison tunnel to secure elevator to holding cell behind the courtroom" which now exists. This means moving from a safe encapsulated system to a dangerous open one ("Short Cuts," RFT, May 12).

Successive city administrations have misperceived this whole matter as a "storage" problem as if one was talking about storing 200 inert boxes. Not so. The jail houses 200 kinetic young men charged with unspeakable violence. And history teaches us that they need to be held securely near the courthouse and promptly brought into the courthouse where citizens come to be jurors and witnesses and where the commingling of inmates and citizens is minimized.

Jail inmates are facing massive potential sentences -- 10 years to life imprisonment and the death penalty. They are charged with murder, manslaughter, rape, assault, first-degree robbery. And most of the offenses carry a requirement to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed. They engender anger in victims and victims' families and often boil the blood of revenge. Obviously, facing the most severe sentences, jail inmates have the highest motivation to escape.

Count the dangerous trips: two trips a day, 10 trips a week, over 400 trips a year, over 1,200 trips in three years, over 2,000 trips in five years. And they tell us the new jail will be built by 2002. Sure.

Driving accused "A" felons from Clayton to downtown and back again every day in rush-hour traffic is a dangerous high-wire act. If the sheriff's van has a flat or the water pump blows or a collision occurs, an escape is at hand and lives are in jeopardy.

Remember the image of the Dallas police bringing Lee Harvey Oswald through a public area and Jack Ruby sticking a gun in Oswald's gut and killing him. If the Sheriff's Department -- for years -- will have to bring accused murderers over 1,000 times through public hallways, look for violence. Secure, nonpublic passageways like we now use between the jail and the Municipal Courts Building protect the lives of everyone and discourage the temptations of escape or revenge.

Contrast the meteoric speed of the construction of Kiel Center to the glacial pace of the new jail.

Of course, the old city jail is a mess. But it didn't just get hit with a cruise missile last night. It's been a mess for decades. The closing of the old jail and the opening of the new one should be a transition of short duration, not a chasm of years.

There is also no guarantee that our city prisoners won't be evicted from the Clayton jail because of violent acts in the Clayton jail or attempts to bribe officials to introduce drugs into the facility. And if they are evicted -- say, in 2000 -- then what? Put up an emergency refugeelike facility on the workhouse grounds? Buy the empty Gumbo facility?

The manana attitude about building a new jail must be supplanted with a sense of urgency to build, build, build instead of talk, talk, talk. The languidly slow motion of the city needs to be jettisoned in favor of a vigorous, swift approach. Maybe city leaders should pretend somebody'll play hockey in it.

Bread and circuses should not trump public safety. The emphases of the current proposal are tragically inverted.

Unnecessarily, someone will escape.
Unnecessarily, someone will get hurt.
Unnecessarily, someone may get killed.
Timothy J. Wilson
Circuit Court Judge

CAFE SOCIETY

To the Editor:
I don't usually find myself writing letters regarding things as innocuous as restaurant reviews, but after reading Jill Posey-Smith's self-important review of Shiitake (RFT, May 19), I was left wondering if her editor took that week off. I won't cite everything that put me off about her pseudo-acerbic style, but really now, consider this line: "Somber charcoal walls ... accentuate the pallor of a smug, excessively Caucasian clientele."

Two thoughts: Before she called the patrons "smug," did she get to know all of them, or just gaze around the room through some hipper-than-thou-colored glasses and figure them all out? This assertion sounds all the more suspect coming from one who later looks down her nose to say, "Unless you've had a $300 kaiseki meal in Kyoto (woooooo!), most of the Asian foods you know and love are populist staples."

Second thought: What, pray tell, does the phrase "excessively Caucasian" mean? Just so I know, what is the acceptable percentage of white people in Clayton restaurants running these days? Should we look to her next review to cite an "excessive" number of Hispanics or African-Americans at another restaurant?

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