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Don't go soft on crime

I read the commentary by Ben Jealous ("A bipartisan case for prison reform," Nov. 10). Prisons are built for both simple and smart reasons — to punish people for crimes and to protect that society from those people so they create neither more victims nor future criminals.

Mr. Jealous contends there are a lot of people in jail who shouldn't be there and if the money is spent elsewhere, there would be fewer people in jail. May I suggest that this is proven wrong on a weekly if not daily basis by news reports of another victim being created because the perpetrator had a long rap sheet which was ignored or he was released from prison early or handed a suspended sentence.

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Tons of money is applied to diversion programs, education and treatment programs, but the weak link is the people themselves. I would contend that it takes effort, not money, to make a change in crime and criminals. It starts when people are born and involves how they are raised. We must also stop excusing juvenile crime with notions that is "just a phase" or that "those kids had it bad enough."

If I were Mr. Jealous, I would want what is best for the most people and to protect society from the very people for whom he advocates and insist that the courts also fall in line with this philosophy — instead of preserving this slow, stepping-stone justice system that only seems to create more criminals by its impotence.

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Michael W Kohlman, Baltimore

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