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NOT A CONFLICT OF PERSONALITIES

SHARE NOT A CONFLICT OF PERSONALITIES

To the editor:

Your reporter missed the mark (Dec. 10) in an article implying that the conflict between the ACLU and the Department of Corrections stems from a personality clash between the directors of the organizations.The ACLU has never called for the resignation or firing of Corrections director, Gary DeLand. We have merely asked for accountability and the improvement of conditions at the prison.

When DeLand's response both to the ACLU and to inmate complaints is, "so sue me," it is no wonder that the prison is enmeshed in litigation.

The ACLU is not concerned with personalities. We are asking that the Department of Corrections live up to the recognized standards for the industry just as jails, hospitals and nursing homes do. We are asking that inmates receive competent medical care, humane living conditions and an end to beatings, sexual abuse, electric shock, strip cells and the practice of four-pointing (tying an inmate by hands and feet to lie in his or her own excrement).

We are asking that the constitutional rights that inmates retain be respected, such as the right to practice their religion, to have access to the courts, to speak out about their concerns.

And on behalf of the community, we ask that the Department of Corrections shift from a policy of deliberately hardening criminals to a policy of rehabilitating them.

Most of the inmates at the Utah State Prison will return to the community after serving their time or while on parole. What is the gain to society if they are released after five, 10, 20, 30 years of enforced idleness, many unable to read and write, no work skills, drug and alcohol addictions intact?

The best predictor for an ex-con to be able to "go straight" is the ability to get and hold a job. Isn't it better for these men and women to become productive, taxpaying members of the community?

Finally, we ask that the Department of Corrections demonstrate good stewardship of our tax money. Leaving large sums of money idle rather than putting them to work in interest bearing accounts does not demonstrate competent management. Allegations of fraud, theft and nepotism will have to be sorted out by the auditor general.

The ACLU asked for changes in the philosophy and practices of the Department of Corrections. We take no position on whether or not personnel will have to be replaced to make those changes.

Michele A. Parish-Pixler

Executive director

American Civil Liberties Union of Utah