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Thursday, April 1, 2004 03:32 pm

Letters 4-1-04

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We welcome letters, but please include your full name, address and a daytime telephone number. We edit all letters for libel, length and clarity.

Send letters to: Letters, Illinois Times. P.O. Box 5256. Springfield, Illinois 62705. Fax: (217) 753-3958. E-mail: editor@illinoistimes.com

MAKE THEM ACCOUNTABLE

Thank you, Dusty Rhodes, for the cover article, "The Incident," in the March 18 Illinois Times. And thank you, Jane, for courageously telling your story. It must have taken great strength to come forward in the public.

Because the media cover only high-profile cases of this type, most people are not aware of the extent of sexual-assault cases in Springfield. Generally people do not want to talk about sexual assault and therefore do not understand it. It is about time we do talk about it. This article brought out some dreadful and upsetting issues with regard to the lack of charges filed for this crime.

Out of 210 reported cases in Springfield, the detective said he closed one-quarter of the cases without presenting them to the state's attorney's office. That leaves 158 cases that he did take to the state's attorney. Only 27 were charged. This calculates to 17 percent actually charged. I find that appalling!

What if 83 percent of theft cases or shooting victims were turned down by the state's attorney? We would probably see an uprising in the community. The detective's statistics show that State's Attorney John Schmidt is not making these rapists accountable for their crimes.

I believe this article was meant to educate the public about the unspoken prevalence of sexual assault in this area, in addition to Mr. Schmidt's track record for prosecuting such cases. The accepted stereotype of victims among many people is "the woman is beat up and she reports right away." That is not reality. Most sexual assaults are acquaintance situations and do not follow the stereotype of being "beat up." It is still a crime, beaten up or not, a very serious crime, and should be validated and prosecuted at the same rate other serious crimes are prosecuted -- better than a measly 17 percent.

The victim who bravely told her story deserves a chance to expose this perpetrator for what he is.

Peggy Coe
Dawson

CHECK THE LABEL

Have you ever wondered where your blue jeans were made or who performed the labor necessary to provide you with a product to consume? Maybe you are too busy to take the time to research the companies that are producing your clothing -- or maybe you simply don't care. I challenge you to pull out your jeans and read the labels to see where they were produced. If the label says "Made in Nicaragua," there's a story behind it. It is a story of a struggle in the free-trade zones of Nicaragua, where workers are paid pennies a day so that you can have numerous pairs of jeans at your disposal for consumption. The workers in the maquila where your jeans were made have put their blood, sweat and tears into the clothing U.S. citizens are wearing.

I and a group of 12 students and faculty from the University of Illinois at Springfield recently participated in a Witness for Peace delegation to Nicaragua. Through our experiences, we were able to visit one United States-owned maquila, Mil Colores, where 950 workers were placed in an assembly line based on their role in the production of the jeans. Each worker performs the same repetitious task on each of the 10,000 pairs of jeans that they create daily. We bore witness to the poor ventilation of the work area -- we inhaled the lint in the air, we touched the fabric and we read the labels, and we heard the stories from real people who had been fired for union involvement and organizing. We have a duty to inform U.S. consumers that the Nicaraguans are being hurt by our consumption. Their message isn't for us to stop buying products that were made in the maquilas but that they want jobs that give them dignity.

It is important for consumers to be aware of what is truly behind the labels of their clothing and the working conditions that they endure so that we can consume. I urge you to join in solidarity with the people of Nicaragua and fight for fair trade, rather than free trade.

Amy J. Minton
Springfield

AHEAD, CALL IT "DUMBO"

I'm surprised there has been no public outcry, at least none that I've noticed, about the "white elephant" CWLP building [at Groth Street and South Grand Avenue]. Surely other folks must share my wonderment at the city administration's apparent ineptness? In any event, I certainly hope the administration will be more forthcoming than what has been reported so far regarding this unused brand-new building.

To approve construction of a building as recently as November 2002 and complete its construction within the following year but then have it unused ever since is preposterous!

How could something so badly needed that it was necessary to spend over a half-million dollars of taxpayers' money for its construction become so unneeded in such a short time?

Dick McLane
Springfield

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