September 20, 2013

Letters to the editor: Long-term jail policy long overdue

What was the state Legislature's incarceration policy when it became fiscally responsible for county jails? Similar to education, the Legislature usurped county control by promising funding, made it law and then failed in its fiscal commitment.

click image to enlarge

Inmates meet with visitors at the Cumberland County Jail. By creating a panel to study Maine’s unified jail system, the state is abdicating responsibility for policymaking, a reader says.

2013 File Photo/Derek Davis

Now they've created a committee to make credible their bandage methodology versus developing a long-term refurbishment program for our costly, arcane county incarceration system.

There is no long-range state-county incarceration policy; yet, without it, any tax revenues spent are just chaotically dispersed. Without it, there is no required coordination of governmental stakeholders or the benefits they supply (i.e., county governments, along with the state police, judiciary, educational, health and corrections systems).  

If the state is to be in control, as citizens, we need the Legislature's long-range policy, one that at least considers and coordinates all areas of incarceration expenditures: capital, operations, maintenance, transportation and recidivism programs.

Additionally, the state should utilize advanced technology to lower costs and improve safety: more monitoring of inmates electronically, eliminating jail-to-court transportation for indictments through video proceedings, consolidating health and meal programs, improving educational training and degree opportunities and communicating with families through telecommunications, etc.

Moreover, from 30,000 feet, why do we need a full-service incarceration facility located in most of our 16 counties? We don't. Strategically located, three will do.

The Legislature should stop dithering and determine a county incarceration policy and a long-term, 20-year plan; anticipate the total required funding and resolve this issue rather than "kicking the can" and protecting turf -- again. Just saying.

Stephen Gorden

Yarmouth

State, city should restrict subsidy for revived ferry

Re: "Deal a big step in revival of Maine-Nova Scotia Ferry" (Sept. 8):

It would be nice to see ferry service like the Prince of Fundy from Nova Scotia to the northeastern USA. But the state of Maine or the city of Portland shouldn't need to subsidize much.

I felt the owners of the Scotia Prince played a little dirty at the end of their contract.

If I remember correctly, they tried to sue the city, saying they pulled out because Portland wasn't servicing the facility to their standards -- while they had scheduled the ship for overhaul in the previous year, and they had nothing ready to substitute for it, either.

Nova Scotia has more to gain than we do, and that is why they should pay more. I really don't oppose this -- I am for it. This would bring some good seasonal work here. I just think we need to be careful and not spend too much on this.

Peter Keniston

South Portland

Biased source had no place in column on peace protest

I'm curious why in Bill Nemitz's column Sept. 1 ("Syrian images hang over peace protest") did he find it necessary to quote Bill Slavick and his ridiculous comment that Secretary of State John Kerry "is in Israel's back pocket"? Slavick's hatred for the state of Israel is well-known and well-documented throughout the years.

What I find amazing about Peace Action Maine is their stunning hypocrisy. Israel opens a lemonade stand in the West Bank, and they go ballistic. Syria gasses more than 1,400 of their own, and crickets.

They were only out Aug. 31 protesting against our government to not attack Syria. It had nothing to do with the chemical attack.

The question posed to Peace Action Maine should be "Are Syrian and Egyptian Arabs not as worthy to defend as Palestinian ones?" Or is it just the Israeli thing that has this group in a tizzy?

Mickey Haas

Portland

Common Core criteria give students chance to advance

Maine businesses support Maine's Common Core Standards. Why? We demand the very best from our employees in order to compete successfully in a global economy, and these rigorous standards will develop the skills to achieve that goal.

Our companies need a future workforce with a mastery of core academic content and competitiveness skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration to help us innovate and grow.

The standards are rigorous learning goals that help students develop that knowledge and those skills so they are college- and career-ready when they graduate from high school.

Independent organizations like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute have concluded that the Maine Common Core Standards are more rigorous than Maine's prior state standards. And that is good for Maine's businesses and our economy.

Our students are no longer competing with students in other states. They are competing with students from around the world. The new standards are internationally benchmarked, which will help our students compete with the world's best.

Contrary to what some believe, the Maine Common Core Standards are not national standards, or curricula, or textbooks. Maine voluntarily adopted the standards, and the state, school districts, individual schools and teachers are developing the curricula and instructional materials aligned to the standards.

We need to be honest with ourselves concerning where our students are and get them where they need to be for success. We have raised the bar and need to stay on course.

Robert A. Moore

president and CEO, Dead River Co.

South Portland

The Common Core represents a real step forward. It supports teachers as they work with students (across the spectrum) to learn more thoroughly and to apply their learning to the real world. Sure, the federal government has encouraged it, with funding, but that doesn't make it bad.

Our company works with school districts across the country (in Georgia, West Virginia, Utah, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee, California, etc.) as they transition to these new Common Core standards and practices, and each state and district has its own unique approach.

There is no one "Common Core." There is no "federal takeover." The real danger is that, in the interests of maintaining local control, Maine will miss this opportunity to take a great leap forward.

Al Noyes

president, Walch Education/ Walch Printing

Portland

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