News reports revealed last week that LePage administration corrections officials, and some Maine legislators, would like to give permission to guards to “shoot to kill” any man or woman who attempts to escape while incarcerated at Windham’s Maine Correctional Center (“Maine prison officials urge shoot-to-kill option for Windham facility,” Feb. 22).

Since most of these imprisoned Maine citizens are also poor, this proposal may not cause much of a public uproar.

The United States has the largest prison population, per capita, of any country, with mostly men and women living in poverty and individuals of racial minorities.

At the same time, academic research has proven that when an adequate number of jobs pay a livable wage, crime rates drop. But the direction we are headed is for the numbers of poor to keep growing.

The Economic Policy Institute has documented that all 50 states experienced widening income inequality between 1979 and 2007, as the average income of the bottom 99 percent of taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent, while the income of the top 1 percent grew by 200.5 percent.

Poverty grows because businesses continue to pay low wages, few jobs have returned since millions were lost during the recession and support programs have been cut.

I would suggest that the state prison officials and Maine legislators who are willing to support “shoot to kill” orders should ponder that it is likely that some of their extended family members will someday be among the poor who are increasingly engulfed by incarcerations and prison expansions.

And when officials cite the growing number of escapes as a reason for the need to have guards “shoot to kill,” maybe they should question a system that incarcerates Maine citizens, makes it possible for inmates to escape and then “shoots to kill” as they escape.

David Beseda

Portland