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From the week of April 13, 2006

Parole Call

The hard cell:Thanks to Alan Prendergast for again exposing the doctrinal policies of Governor Bill Owens and the Republicans who are bleeding Colorado to death ("Over and Over Again," April 6).

Parole in Colorado is a thinly disguised system whose main mission is to keep as many people as possible locked up. It is easier to have a lock-'em-up mentality to sell to the public than to address real public issues in real ways.

While sounding like good public policy to the simple-minded masses, these policies are bleeding the educational, transportational and judicial systems to death, meanwhile creating a mean-spirited, expensive and ultimately failing corrections industry.

Another job well done, Gov: You are ready for national office.

Ed Pluss
Denver

Money for nothing:When a person is released from prison, he is returned to Smith Road across from the Denver jail and given a $100 check. With that money, he must:

1. Get the check cashed. The only place around Smith Road is a liquor store that charges $10 for the check-cashing service.

2. Get into downtown Denver, usually via the bus at $1.25.

3. Get a place to stay at a minimum of $25 per night.

4. Buy meals.

5. Check in with the parole office within 24 hours and provide a home telephone number.

6. Get a new ID -- birth certificate, marriage license or divorce decree required. Who has that in hand after years in prison? There's another fee to send for a copy, plus a six-week wait.

7. Get a job. Employment applications ask if you have a felony. If yes, no work.

A parolee can make it for two days on the money the state gives him, if he is lucky. Is it any wonder these people end up in homeless shelters or right back in prison? Could any of us be dropped off on Smith Road with the clothes on our back and $100 and make it? We, too, would head for the nearest homeless shelter. The legislature is looking for more funds to build more prisons. Instead, it should be looking for funds to build release centers where the newly released can receive a room, food, used clothing and help getting a job and a place to live.

Carolyn Turner
Parker

A never-ending record:I am a 51-year-old homeless white male living on the streets of Denver, a town I had heard would be better for me in every way than Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, I was very wrong about Denver being a better place to start a better life, as all the employers in Denver discriminate against persons with any felony convictions. In June 1994, when I was living in California, I was convicted of assault with a firearm and spent fifteen months in the California state prison system for a shooting that I felt was self-defense. I successfully completed three years of parole in 1998 and moved to Las Vegas in December 1999.

Why does this state, specifically the town of Denver, hate its fellow human beings so much that it bars anyone who has even one very old felony and any amount of bad credit from obtaining the most important things that we all need to establish? Why is this state allowed to persecute people because of an unhappy past? Alan Prendergast is absolutely correct when he states that the Denver shelters are a terrible place to parole ex-cons, due to all the alcohol- and drug-abuse problems and the gangs, violence and poverty that are the "homeless way of life."

The laws must be changed, and Colorado forever barred from discriminating against and persecuting anyone due to any kind of criminal past, if ex-felons are to be expected to be successful in getting out of prison and off the streets.

Robert L. Love
Denver


This Dud's for You

The battle of the bottles:I read Jessica Centers's "Last Call," in the March 30 issue, and am writing because I have never understood Colorado's liquor laws. I came from a state that sold wine, liquor and beer in grocery stores and liquor stores. That was way before Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart came along and nothing much happened.

Visiting states that sell liquor, beer and wine in grocery stores, I have noticed that they have big sales, big-box stores have discounted booze, and liquor stores have migrated to keg sales. Wal-Mart has not changed a thing. No 3.2 beer is sold in those states, and booze is also available on Sunday. Those states are Illinois and Arizona; Indiana is where I am from. Also, Indiana sells package liquor and beer in taverns, as does Nebraska. The only thing Indiana does that is strange is that no children are allowed in taverns, whereas they are in Colorado. No damage has been done to Colorado children by being in taverns with their parents.

It seems the middlemen in Colorado are afraid their turf will disappear. These folks have a powerful lobby with the state legislature. They intend to keep the liquor laws intact. A state referendum would change everything, if it passed.

David Neuman
via the Internet


Follow the Leader?

Channel 9's nine lives:I've been a Denver resident for six years now, and one of the highlights of every year is your Best Of issue. I always scan to see if I agree with your editors' picks over the readers' choices. Let's begin, shall we?

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