Criminal justice is a topic my organization, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility is engaged in (see www.adpsr.org/prisons), so I read the April 2 “Letters” column about Sunil Dutta’s “Kill the Death Penalty” [Feb. 26] with great interest. Dutta says “victims’ families can never forget the pain or overcome the loss” associated with crime, but the history of victim-offender reconciliation programs shows that many victims can indeed overcome their pain and suffering. Dutta argues for breaking the “vicious cycle of revenge,” so it would follow that crime victims should be given the opportunity to get beyond the desire for revenge and, further, that the door should somehow be kept open for those who commit crimes to be transformed as well–making Dutta’s support for life without parole seem inconsistent with his other argument.
I share Dutta’s sympathy for the victims of crime, but all too often victims are paraded as props by “tough on crime” politicians to stoke public fear and thinly veiled racism. Clearly Dutta is not in this category, but a better expression of sympathy with victims is to demand measures to reduce crime by empowering those most likely to be victims (women, people of color and poor people) and restoring the communities suffering most from crime (which law enforcement alone has repeatedly failed to achieve). Because so much harm due to crime cannot be reversed, hanging on to the suffering caused by crime must give way to truly healing individuals and communities so that far fewer tragedies occur in the future.
WITHDRAWAL’S ‘MORAL IMPERATIVE’
Pound Ridge, NY
Stephen F. Cohen’s March 26 “Conscience and the War” should be required reading for every American. What a valuable service he has done, offering a crystal-clear overview of this unmitigated disaster and persuasively explaining the “moral imperative” of a quick and complete withdrawal. May we somehow find the courage to stop the Bush Administration’s runaway train of destruction.
Santa Rosa, Calif.