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Letters: Shutting off the prison pipeline

Re "Sacramento's prison deal," Editorial, Sept. 11

California's got a prison problem. If lawmakers hope to persuade a federal court to extend the deadline for reducing the state's prison population, they must dig deeper.

Yes, we must take some action now to address overcrowding, and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's proposal to reduce recidivism is a step in the right direction. But California must do more.

One landmark study showed that at-risk children who are left out of early learning programs are 85% more likely to be sentenced to prison or jail as adults. I have been a childcare provider and early learning educator for 19 years. I can personally attest to the fact that early learning opportunities can make the difference between a life ahead and a life behind bars.

The real solution to California's prison problem is keeping our kids out of the prison pipeline. We can do that by giving every child access to early learning and care.

Tonia McMillian

Bellflower

Re "County's new/old jail problem," Editorial, Sept. 10

Unless they have committed a serious violation of the law, mentally ill people do not belong in jail. It is not a therapeutic environment.

Too often people with mental illness who are homeless are picked up for "quality-of-life crimes" such as jaywalking. They go to jail, they destabilize, they are released, the police see them, they look for small offenses, rearrest them, take them back to jail, and the cycle perpetuates itself.

This practice is expensive and inhumane. Diversion into community-based treatment is the only sensible answer.

Marsha Temple

Los Angeles

The writer is the executive director of the nonprofit Integrated Recovery Network.

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