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In-prison visits important

Thank you for writing about the existing and the looming video visitation services for families of the incarcerated in our state's jails and prisons. I have feared this technology and its potential for harm ever since the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners have no rights to visits, not even by their children (Bazetta v. Overton case). Certainly, in-person visits can be costly, providing security for the visits, but once more, the costs are greatly offset by the value of an in-person visit with the children and most visits serve as motivations for the incarcerated parent to abide by the rules and maintain positive behavior. I have talked with wardens in 42 prisons and jails in 14 states that have created more child-friendly visits. They often report that the culture of their facilities is enhanced with more cooperation and positive reactions.

Again, the importance of the parent-child visits allows the maintenance of the relationship of the parent and child, as most parents will be home during their child's minor years. A video visit for 30 minutes in a fee-for-service session does very little to improve the relationship. There are cases when video visits are valuable: I am sure the families of our deployed soldiers, as well as prisoners and their families, who are separated by hundreds of miles, are grateful for video visits. But that is not the case in Arkansas.

I was hopeful that our state prison board and directors would not pursue video visiting, as the funds could be better used for our families by providing funding to help with travel and overnight stays rather than resorting to this sort of poor contact. The Arkansas Department of Correction has a history of intermittent efforts to become child-friendlier, but the agency and the board have recently been more neglectful of the consideration of the children's needs. There is not a uniform policy to support parent-child contact. Indeed, there are many ill-informed judges, caseworkers, therapists and caregivers who oppose children visiting with their incarcerated parents. Their positions violate research and the direct experiences of the children who want to visit. Indeed, it would have been helpful if the board had talked with family members about the implementation of video visits in our prisons, to insure their perspective was considered.

In our recent survey of families of the incarcerated whom we serve now or have served in the past more than 90 percent of 232 caregivers and youth found video visiting as unsatisfactory compared to a direct visit, either through the window with a phone or a direct contact visit. Many also felt fearful that such video visits would replace a contact visit, something implied in ADC spokesperson Cathy Frye's comments to the Times.

We will all benefit from sustaining these families, not destroying them.

Dee Ann Newell

Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind

From the web

In response to last week's cover story, "A killing in Pocahontas":

Wow! Great story.

The national media offered this tale as an emblem of Southern Grotesque? That might be an understatement. Even the names are perfect: Bob Sam Castleman. His girlfriend, Becky Spray. B.S.'s son had a girlfriend named "Fanci."

My grandfather, who often mixed his metaphors, had a saying for a sad and sordid account such as this. He always said that a snake in a box is worth two in the grass.

Again, good job.

Where does the Times get all these talented writers?

Olphart

The irony of this story is that the son, who the father was trying to protect, eventually "turned" on his father in an effort to get a lighter sentence. I've always heard there is no honor among thieves and drug dealers, and this story proves it!

RYD

I grew up in Dalton, just outside of Pocahontas. When I was still young, my family moved to Paragould, two weeks after my best friend, at the time, Felicia Elliot's family had been murdered and she had gone missing. I still visited there a few times a year until I moved to Idaho. I was too young to know about the Perkins case, but I do remember the building he lived in. But I can say with absolute certainty that Pocahontas is a cancer on society as a whole. Very few decent people still live there. It has become a melting pot for drug dealers, drug abusers, thieves, murderers, and the like.

Cody James Bradford

In response to "New anti-choice laws in Arkansas pose danger to women":

The ACLU of Arkansas kept a very low profile this session for one reason: to help those who wanted to do the right thing do it.

So, while we were hardly visible on many bills, we quietly but assiduously fought these measures that endanger women's health and interfere in their most private, personal decisions. Our efforts, and those of intelligent, reasonable and compassionate legislators on both sides of the aisle who are sick to death of these political score-keeping measures, whose sole purpose is to be used as ammunition in political races, were stymied by the overwhelming ability of certain groups to threaten withdrawal of support from and/or antagonism to the reelection campaigns of those who ended up feeling they "had" to vote for the bills — and you see the result. The left, middle and right were overwhelmed by the extremists.

Somebody has to stand up against this truly loud and vindictive minority. We're not stupid. We know this is not about protecting women.

When those who would do the right thing by women and their families are given the same support, we'll see a different outcome. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood and others will do our part to fight these oppressive measures; but the silent majority is going to have to rev up its game and get a lot louder and a lot more involved — around the state more than in good old progressive Little Rock — to put the oppressive, backward-leaning minority back it where it belongs.

C'mon Arkansas! Stand up and fight for your state!

Rita Sklar

In response to Gene Lyons' April 16 column, "The Obama Doctrine":

Fact of the matter is that Obama is worse than Chamberlain, because Iran is weak, the sanctions are hurting, yet Obama wants to removed sanctions before any proof of Iranian complaisance. This is foolish since Iran has not hesitated to break every single nuclear inspection treaty it was obligated to follow.

Every single one. Not once or twice, but every single time. Let that sink in for a bit. Since Obama has decided, unilaterally, to make buddy buddy with the Castro regime, FARC, which is an armed branch of Castro's terrorist structure, attacked military bases less than a day after Obama's announcement. Iran has supported other terrorist activities, such as Yemen. More egg on Obama's face.

Nobody worries about a nuclear Israel because the Israeli nuclear program is entirely for defensive purposes, where as the only reason Iran wants nuclear weapons is to exterminate Israel. Yet Obama touts his plans as if Iran is playing straight. Iran does not care if it gets nuked by Israel in retaliation. Even the Saudis are shopping around with Pakistan because they sure don't want Iran to be a nuclear power, and their only viable alternative to trusting Obama is to create a nuclear stockpile of their own.

Obama talks a good game, but his actions are anything but strong.

Steven E

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