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Reading With Children

* Re “Young Offenders Learn ABCs the Hard Way: Caged,” Nov. 8: I work with young kids in our tough central Hollywood neighborhood, and one of the most painful realities of that work is that many of them end up in jail multiple times. But in recent years I have noticed something new when they come out: increased confidence based on reading and other skills they have picked up in jail, at Juvenile Hall and county fire camps for offenders. Richard Colvin’s article was a very moving one for me.

The Times is doing an extremely important public service by leading all of us to a deeper appreciation of the importance of reading. Judging from the young men in my neighborhood who have come out of camps and jail with new reading skills, I believe literacy may well be the long-lost key to reliably reducing recidivism.

JOE SHEA

Hollywood

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Kids in cages? I was shocked to learn the California juvenile justice system has now resorted to blatant child abuse. If I kept my child in a cage I know I would be charged with child abuse, have my child taken away from me and end up in jail. I fully realize that these children can be very violent at times, and yes, solitary confinement for a few days is a necessary punishment for violent misbehavior. Do these kids ever get any anger management counseling to learn how to control their anger?

Besides teaching them to read, what else is being done on a phychological level to help them become productive citizens? One child said he was “jumped” and beaten in the showers by rival gang members. Were these children unsupervised at the time to allow this child to be beaten? The article even said that they put children in solitary confinement if they are suicidal. If that is their idea of child psychology, I think we need to investigate further into the apparent abuses of our juvenile justice system and the people running it.

Kids treated like caged animals at a zoo will end up acting like uncontrollable animals once they are released back into society. They will be even more angry at society this time though.

CLAY STILES

Santa Ana

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It was reassuring to learn, as California taxpayers spend some $36,000 annually for each incarcerated youth in the California Youth Authority, that the very walls in which the state is trying to educate these young offenders are decorated with posters of the Islamic religious leader and racial separatist Malcom X! Why not a poster of Jesus Christ also?

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Oh! I almost forgot my fifth-grade civics lesson--in the United States, there’s a separation between church and state.

JAMES MORRISON

Los Angeles


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