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Thursday, May 19, 2011 11:45 pm

Letters to the Editor 05/19/11


The Illinois State Bar Association is backing legislation that would encourage courts to explore alternatives to incarceration for children who commit low-level offenses.

Should children who commit low-level offenses be incarcerated, or is there a more productive use of scarce state resources? This is one of the issues posed in House Bill 83, now pending in the Illinois General Assembly.

This bill would encourage juvenile courts across the state to explore less restrictive alternatives to confinement for children convicted of low-level offenses. Its passage would bring Illinois into 21st century thinking with regard to juvenile justice.

It is well established that juvenile offenders convicted of a low-level offense are less likely to re-offend if given individualized treatment within the community. Troubled youth need mentors, guides and education. Behavior modification is a great tool that helps build their self-esteem and helps them make better choices.

The sad fact is that Illinois currently spends more than $150 million on eight juvenile prisons – more than $80,000 per incarcerated youth annually – with a failure rate of half of the youth returning to juvenile prison within three years. Further, statistics show that Illinois is increasing rather than decreasing penalties for juveniles who have committed a misdemeanor.

We simply must reverse this trend. Expensive institutions are being used where there is little need for such investment and where it arguably is counterproductive.

The Illinois House has already passed this bill, and it currently awaits a vote from the Senate. The bill has support from the Illinois State Bar Association as well as organizations including the PTA of Illinois, Child Care Association of Illinois and Metropolis Strategies (formerly Chicago Metropolis 2020).

We urge you to contact your state senator and let him or her know you support this legislation. Many states have already restricted the use of juvenile prisons, notably Ohio, Iowa, Texas and California. Now, Illinois can join the ranks of those who have taken this important step.

Mark D. Hassakis
Mt. Vernon
President, Illinois State Bar Association

This seem to be more of a press release than a news story [see “Wind turbines still in the forecast for Sangamon County,” May 12]. I can certainly understand why Mr. Nickell found no arguements against wind energy – he’s the site manager and trying to sell landowners on the idea of leasing their land to their company. He’s a sales guy. What’s he going to say?

I doubt that he’s going to say wind is only 30 percent efficient (industry number). And, oh, by the way, Denmark, which has 20 percent of their energy via wind hasn’t closed any coal/fossil fuel plants. Greenhouse gas has not changed and they have one of the highest electric costs in Europe.

He’s not going to mention anything about possible property devaluation for those with the wind project.

He’s not going to mentioned the wind companies who have bought out homes or been sued by non-participant neighbors because of the noise issues.

Even though those and other items like “stray voltage, shadow flicker” may be in the lease contract, I certainly wouldn’t expect a salesman to draw attention to those things.

Betty Gebhardt

With regard to the proposed cuts to Medicaid, I can’t believe any such thing could even be considered [see “Medicaid cuts threaten nursing home staff, services,” by Patrick Yeagle, May 12]. It is beyond cruel; it is just plain stupid.

We have to ask ourselves what would make politicians do such things to the most helpless among us, just to avoid raising taxes?

Many people tell us we have no choice – programs like Medicaid and Medicare are just too expensive. We can’t leave this increasing debt burden to future generations. Okay, then, let’s not – it’s our debt, let’s pay it ourselves by raising our own taxes, such as the Medicare payroll tax. Then we can preserve these important programs for future generations.

Our values are being tested right now; we have to decide what the real priorities of our state and nation should be.

Jeffrey Hobbs

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