Atty. Gen. Janet Reno's approach to the crime crisis may appear to be somewhat unorthodox ("Reno's Appeal," by Nina J. Easton and Ronald J. Ostrow, Oct. 31.), but it should be obvious that punishing offenders while eschewing crime-prevention and rehabilitation programs is horrendously counterproductive. Our prisons are jammed with individuals who really have no hope of rehabilitation.
Prevention efforts would have a positive impact on the prison system as well as the increasing law-enforcement problems we face. Reno's approach should be welcomed with open arms. Otherwise, we will all eventually fall victim to a seriously plagued criminal-justice system.
Here is another honest, hard-working, accountable public servant who is gaining popularity and, dare we say, power as well. In the process of being her squeaky-clean self and doing her job, Reno appears to be frightening only those politicians who have sold their souls to the devil of reelection.
The only criticism political insiders can make is to say that the attorney general is not political enough to get things done--as if the double-speaking, gridlocked members of Congress are themselves making wild and rapid progress.
Every time that Reno speaks we get a true picture of a system that's begging for overhaul on all levels. We need leaders of her kind, visionaries who tell simple truths and inspire us to accept responsibility and use our personal power to bring about the changes that our society desperately needs.
To suggest that Reno represents a "more humane brand of justice" and desires to "protect children" is particularly astonishing in that she has taken responsibility for the fiery attack outside of Waco. The agonizing screams of the dying children can hardly be tempered by any realization of Reno's tough love for them.
Reno's excuse for the disaster at Waco seems more than a little disingenuous. The idea that children were killed to "prevent them from being further abused" must rank right up there with that infamous quote from Vietnam: "We had to destroy the village to save it." It's Orwellian "newspeak" at its best.
MICHAEL A. PACER
The easiest way to escape blame for a horrible decision is to simply admit fault and then hope for the best. If the authors are correct about the attorney general's rise in popularity because of the Waco raid--and I don't believe that they are--then I am amazed at the American people.
Reno is a major public figure and clearly a future presidential contender. We should be asking tougher questions about why she seemed to collapse under pressure and managed to choose the worst of all possible courses of action at Waco.
The attorney general seems to prefer the soft approach to crime at a time when criminals are operating at an unprecedented level of ruthlessness and brutality. Reno's intentions regarding today's youth are commendable, but she offers little reassurance to people who have suffered at the hands of those who hold life and property in utter disregard.
The alternatives of counseling and rehabilitation belong more in the Health and Human Services realm than in the Justice Department. Indeed, perhaps dealing with criminals should be a joint effort of social services and law enforcement.
The cover refers to Reno as "a popular attorney general." Popular with whom?
Certainly not with the families and friends of David Koresh and the other innocent people in the compound outside Waco whose deaths were a direct consequence of Reno's management of the Justice Department.
Certainly not with anyone who respects the rule of law and is deeply disturbed that the Justice Department, and particularly the FBI, is being turned into a political weapon designed to advance the nefarious schemes of Slick Willie and his henchmen.
DONALD BRIAN WARD
The authors state, as if hypnotized, the fable that the '60s and '70s programs, the Great Society attempts, failed to alleviate the social problems they were designed to address. That simply is not true.
Even the most extreme conservatives, when challenged in Congress to name a Great Society program that failed, or any other that simply flung money at a problem without result, could not name one failure.
What happened is that, soon after inception, the programs were gutted and the money and the support stopped. The shells existed, puny in the face of problems and unable to cope because they had no resources.
But the programs were largely successful while they lasted. For brief moments of glory, grades went up in poor schools, more blacks attended college and fewer kids were hungry.
This example of history rewritten is further indication that if a lie is repeated long enough, even those who should know better--including journalists, who can go to the source--will pass it on until it becomes the unreliable pseudo-history that new myths are built on, and faulty new lessons are derived.
JUDE J. MCGEE
NEWS ANALYST, KPFK
THE QUESTION IS, CAN TWO MAKE ONE?
Regarding David Grossman's "Imagining Peace" (Oct. 31): On a visit to the Mideast quite a few years ago, we stopped at an Arab-owned refreshment kiosk in the Judean hills. The proprietor questioned the legend on my United Jewish Appeal T-shirt: "We Are One."
"No, we are two," said the Arab in a friendly but intense voice.
This incident illustrates our dilemma in the search for peace. It's a challenge facing all of humankind: Can we make one out of two? It takes two to make one in the reproductive process. But whether it's love or rape that's taking place makes a world of difference.
HYMAN H. HAVES
ART IN QUARANTINE
Quarantining the AIDS art at L.A. County-USC Medical Center ("Life, Death and Censorship," Palm Latitudes, Oct. 31) makes sense only (1) if the cautionary signs guarding the entrance read in red: "Danger! You might understand something," and (2) if the censoring members of both the L.A. County Commission on AIDS and the coalition that oversees the clinic's art have spent a period of, oh, say, two weeks locked up in the same room with the works.
Ah, the vision will get me through the week.
PROSE AND CON
In "Confidence Man" (by Trip Gabriel, Oct. 10), the character of Joane Stewart, a good friend of mine, was gratuitously assassinated by cowardly innuendo claiming that she and Harold Jay Kaplan were involved in "mutual exploitation." That implies that she was an accomplice of his, a canard contradicted by all the evidence that she has supplied to legal authorities and to Gabriel himself.
Next it is implied that Stewart and Kaplan were lovers. Gabriel described in great detail the sociopathic-liar characteristics of Kaplan. Yet, when Stewart denies a sex relationship with Kaplan, Gabriel contradicts her on the basis of Kaplan's "diaries." The author gets most of his article from Stewart's information but then takes the say-so of a proven liar over her word.
And now you have resurrected her victimization. On the basis of your article, she has been losing tennis customers and is being taunted as part and parcel of Kaplan's crooked deals. Yet, Kaplan comes off as a basically harmless scoundrel and roisterer, a kind of Robin Hood taking only from the rich--almost celebrated for his cleverness.
As far as injuring innocent victims, you've taken up where Kaplan left off.
WILLIAM T. PARKER
Gabriel responds: Nothing in the story stated or implied that Stewart, who shared a home with Kaplan off and on for 10 years, ever participated in one of his confidence schemes. If some of her acquaintances are now penalizing her by assuming that she had been his partner in fraud, it is their assumptions that are fraudulent.
The diary in which Kaplan talks of being Stewart's lover was supplied by Stewart herself and was clearly a journal he had been keeping over a period of time.