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The Costs of Crime

Katy Reckdahl's critique of the "prison-industrial complex" in her article ("Big Picture," April 1) unfortunately looks at only one small part of the picture. Families of felons are hurt when their loved ones are incarcerated (whatever the likelihood prisons are teaming with good parents). However, we must also calculate the benefits to everyone of fewer felons on the street, not the least of which are the residents of Treme.

Ms. Reckdahl discussed the costs of policing and jailing criminals in certain areas. Certainly this is a tiny percentage of the cost to individuals and society from crime. Most career criminals will commit dozens of crimes during a lifetime. Keeping felons in prison (especially until middle age when men commit many fewer violent acts) greatly reduces the number of crimes.

The costs to victims and society resulting from crimes are enormous. The murder victim leaves orphans to be cared for. Theft increases the costs to everyone through higher product prices and insurance costs. Can a price ever reflect the damage done to a victim of rape or child abuse? Perhaps Ms. Reckdahl should visit the victims of crime and their families when she writes about the "prison-industrial complex."

From the late 1950s to the early '90s the crime rate stubbornly increased. This occurred through periods of recession and prosperity. Curiously, incarceration rates fell during this period. However, since the early '90s, there has been a dramatic increase in incarceration rates as a result of reforms like "three strikes" laws. Not surprisingly, this has coincided with a dramatic decrease in crime throughout the nation. This has been expensive, but arguably a very wise investment when we think of the murders, rapes and assaults prevented.

Instead of attacking incarceration, Ms. Reckdahl should have focused her energy on our pointless and expensive imprisoning of those possessing small amounts of drugs. By reforming drug laws, we free up lots of prison space so that we can incarcerate more violent criminals for longer periods of time. An actual big picture approach takes into account not just the cost to felons' families but also the benefits to victims' families and, most importantly, the benefits of fewer crimes to everyone.
--Randy Boudreaux


Asking for Credit

We appreciate your publishing information about filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit ("Money on the Table," April 8) and your discussing Total Community Action Inc.'s aggressive promotion of EITC in tax year 2003, as in previous years. We nevertheless feel your treatment is more of a diatribe than educational, i.e. informing employers and low-income workers about the benefits of the EITC.

Because of the benefit of EITC to citizens, our local economy, and by extension the state of Louisiana, we respectfully ask that you consider what is being done and how our citizens can access the services. Some examples include:

• TCA Inc. operates eight VITA sites in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service;

• The impact of last year's effort was more than $700,000 in EITC refunds;

• Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) claims processed were more than $10 million;

• Filers saved more than $170,000 in preparation fees and Rapid Refund loan charges;

• With the help of the city, TCA Inc., IRS, NOLAC, Sens. Bajoie and Irons, and Reps. Murray and Lucus, TCA developed and distributed a video to more than 3,000 businesses, community-based organizations, elected officials of City of New Orleans, and faith-based institutions;

• TCA Inc. aggressively implemented an outreach program that includes faith-based institutions, beauty parlors, barber shops, and institutions serving low income persons;

• Channel 6 donated airtime promoting the EITC program equaling more than $100,000 to date;

• At this writing, TCA had processed more than 1,700 tax returns for tax year 2003;

• TCA advises eligible citizens who have filed their taxes and not applied for EITC that they can file EITC by amending their taxes;

Again, we appreciate your effort.
--Peter Dangerfield
Executive Director
Total Community Action Inc.


Helmet Head

Three cheers for Gov. Mike Foster. While I am not a motorcyclist, I do not see the necessity for other non-riders to be so determined to fault the governor for his stand ("Born to Be Riled?," April 1).

I cannot help but feel that those pushing for the compulsory helmet law are extremely confused. Their arguments suggest they are lobbying to repeal a law that prohibits motorcyclists from wearing helmets.

Did I miss something? Is there such a law, or isn't anyone free to avail himself of the benefits of a helmet if he wants to? Is it really necessary for the state to require a person to do something legal if he wants to do it? Are we as a people now so insecure that we must petition the government to pass law after law restricting our individual freedoms? Are we so weak that we must shift personal decisions to the government in order to avoid the responsibilities that accompany them?

I am convinced that, when our last freedom has disappeared, it will not be the result of a conquering enemy but from the weak among us that are perfectly happy to swap freedom's responsibilities for the wet-nursing of a paternalistic government. If you want to wear a helmet when you ride, by all means wear one. It's legal, and no one will stop you.
--Thomas D. Freeman

'Rich Boy Mike'

--Why can't the other publications and citizens in Louisiana wake up and see Gov. Warbucks as Clancy DuBos does ("Born to Be Riled?," April 1)? Rich Boy Mike inherited all of his wealth and gets his way through money and intimidation. The man is a bully and a terrible governor.
--Eddie Schmidt

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