Inmates at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. A reader questions a proposal by the governor to replace most of the buildings that make up the MCC.
I sincerely hope that we do not build an expensive, new and bigger prison in Windham. True, the Maine Correctional Center is a hodgepodge of buildings, of which only two are relatively modern. However, simply to replace a prison without rethinking our addiction to warehousing people as our response to crime is recklessly foolish.
Research shows that mangling ties with the community, resulting in the loss of prisoners' employment and, often, family and housing, is counterproductive.
We also know that drug addiction (a leading cause of incarceration) can be addressed in a well-structured community environment more comprehensively than in prison.
Alas, every budget crunch reduces the cost-effective programs, ensuring that that the costly ones become the default -- whether emergency room, nursing home or prison.
When the Maine State Prison in Warren was built and touted as a money saver, it was to be part of an integrated system using community-based programs. We only got the prison.
If we had the will, we could create a great justice system in Maine, one that takes a holistic view of the life context of those breaking the law and offers creative, positive ways to overcome their challenges and deficits. We could reduce the population of MCC by expanding pre-release programs and then rehabilitating the saved space for community-based educational and skills programs.
My fear is that the sparkling new prison is for the warehousing: the first step in encouraging for-profit prison corporations to look to Maine. It is a fact that these outfits don't make money building their own -- they want the state to do the building and turn them over. Is that where we are headed?
Weapons, ammo surcharge could fund safety measures
I love America! We allow everyone -- well, almost everyone -- to voice their opinion as long as it's civil and not inciting a riot or stampede.
After the horrific murders in Newtown, the National Rifle Association took several days to craft a response to the events. The best their brain trust could come up with was, "Place armed guards in schools."
I know there have to be several retired police officers in the NRA. I wonder if the NRA PR guys checked with them about the number of well-trained police officers who are killed with their own guns every year.
One of the lessons I took from my police career is "learn from your mistakes." If you look at the killings in Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, etc., the shooter(s) came with excessive firepower and body armor. Are we going to up the ante with .50-caliber automatics and APCs?
The determined "bad guy" is going to seek out and destroy the "good guy." Maybe the NRA will provide their highly trained members to volunteer their services, because that's what a well-armed militia is supposed to do -- protect the republic.
As a suggestion for compromise, what if Congress imposes mandatory checks for every sale, bans the sale of high-capacity magazines and implements strict prosecution of weapons violations?
They could pay for the whole thing by taxing the NRA as a corporation and imposing a surcharge on assault weapons ($1,000), long guns ($500), pistols ($250) and ammunition ($5-$20 per box).
That way, the gun owners of America will have their Second Amendment rights intact, and we can pay for a real mental health program whereby we secure those who need help in the mental institutions that both the liberals and penny-pinching conservatives closed a generation ago.
Don't you find the timing coincidental? Mental institutions close, mass killings become prevalent. Hmmm.
City firefighters turn out in honor of late 'brother'
Webster's definition of the word "brotherhood": "The quality or state of being brothers or a brother."
I have learned the real meaning of brotherhood recently with the illness and finally the passing of my brother, retired Portland Fire Capt. Ken Thomes.
While he was ill, there were many visits from his retired firefighter brothers who had worked with him as well as being hunting, fishing or trapping buddies. Many stories were shared and tales told! This meant a lot to Ken as well as his family.
At his wake, Jan. 9, I believe I saw and met every Portland firefighter (man and woman) who is either currently serving or has retired from the department. There was a steady stream of fire personnel, some in their dress uniforms and some in their work uniforms, offering their sincere condolences to our family.
The "Brothers" even posted honor guards beside Ken's casket during the entire service. This was not only an honor to Ken, but also to his son, who followed in his father's footsteps and became a Portland firefighter, Deputy Chief Scott Thomes.
In closing, I would like to thank every firefighter for not only protecting those whom you serve, but also protecting and honoring those with whom you worked and their families. You have given the term "brotherhood" a whole new meaning.
Thank you all for being there for Ken's last bell!
To prepare for 2014 vote, evaluate LePage's record
The countdown to elections in 2014 has begun. Now is the time for all of us to seriously evaluate how our elected officials have done -- and determine what we really want to see in our next candidates.
We should start with Gov. Le- Page, as the highest elected official in Maine.
1. What has LePage done to improve education in Maine?
2. What has LePage done to improve the infrastructure; roads, bridges and the electrical grid?
3. What has LePage done to improve access to energy with lower costs to Mainers?
4. What has LePage done to further alternative energy?
5. What has LePage done to help small business?
6. What has LePage done to help the elderly, disabled or mentally impaired?
7. What has LePage done to encourage recent university graduates to remain in Maine?
8. What has LePage done to preserve our state's natural beauty, conserve our resources or promote tourism?
9. What has LePage done to inspire our young to consider public service?
10. What has LePage done to improve our tax base?