Letters

Inside Out

Jennifer Gonnerman's article "Freedom's Cost" [December 26] is the best piece I have read in The Village Voicein years. Ex-inmate Elaine Bartlett's story after she was granted clemency by Governor Pataki is a special one, but people who have grown up in the ghetto and had family problems due to criminal acts can relate 100 percent. Hopefully, Ms. Gonnerman can give us an update in the future.

This is the first time I read a story twice, the first time I have e-mailed a story to friends, the first time I have written a letter to the editor. Props to Elaine Bartlett for her perseverance. She is an inspiration to anyone who is struggling to correct past misdeeds. And props to Jennifer Gonnerman for in-depth reporting and providing readers with a story we needed to know—which is what happens after the cameras and publicity go away.

Jason Wolfe
New Rochelle, New York


Brutal Reality

As the former director of the Substance Abuse Intervention Division at Rikers Island, I am responding to Jennifer Gonnerman's article "Roaming Rikers" [December 19]. Ms. Gonnerman quotes former corrections commissioner Bernard Kerik as saying "there are five issues that inmates can really rally around to the point of a riot. One is commissary, one is visits, one is telephone, one is food, and one is mail."

Anyone who has worked on Rikers for significant periods would put a sixth issue at the top of the list: correction officer brutality.

Dave Mallach
New Hyde Park, New York


Guarded Reaction

I have never been so disappointed in a piece of reporting in my life as I was by Jennifer Gonnerman's article on Rikers Island. As the daughter of a former longtime correction officer there, I believe the article was dangerously one-sided. I was struck by Ms. Gonnerman's compassion for the murderers and rapists who have been sent to Rikers, but lack of concern for the men and women who work there.

Ms. Gonnerman was quick to point out illegal beatings suffered by inmates. I wonder how many guards were attacked by inmates last year, and what is their course of action against those inmates, if any. Ms. Gonnerman mentioned a lack of medical services and drug rehabilitation counseling. I wonder what kind of psychological and stress-management counseling is offered to corrections officers who have to enter this "city-run superghetto" every day. Perhaps the suicide of the officer who jumped in front of a subway car, which was mentioned by Ms. Gonnerman, could have been avoided.

My father, John Donnelly, worked on Rikers Island as a correction officer for 17 years. Two years after retirement he suffered a series of massive strokes and two heart attacks. He passed away on March 19 of this year from congestive heart failure and complications from his heart attacks at age 53. Although he had some health issues, his doctors agreed that the stress and psychological damage from working in that environment were factors in his death at such a young age.

Ms. Gonnerman expressed skepticism about the rules against press access on the island. Perhaps if reporters were more responsible, more would be allowed access. I think Ms. Gonnerman said it best when she wrote that "in this sense all prison reporting is a lie, and the best one may hope for is a set of half-truths. . . ." Half-truths indeed.

Tara Donnelly
Manhattan


Message for Nader

Re Lenora Todaro's interview with Ralph Nader ["Ralph Nader Lashes Back!" December 26]: Contrary to what Nader says, I most certainly did call him to get his views. He had to call me back, but my interview was initiated by me, not him. I am astonished that he would put me in his list of critics uninterested in his point of view.

I wonder if Nader read the resultant column in which I reported on his comments quite favorably. True, I was not impressed with his grasp of women's issues. I mean, come on, dry-cleaning prices? And his insistence that abortion would be safe under Bush because the country is pro-choice struck me as naive and ill-informed. Nonetheless, I noted his many excellent positions on a range of issues, from capital punishment to the environment to poverty. I wrote that I was going to cast a strategic vote for him if New York was safe for Gore. And that's what I did.

It is very sad that Nader, a true American hero, would stoop to misrepresentation in order to paint himself as a victim of journalism. It's not my fault that he got only 2.7 percent of the vote.

Katha Pollitt
Manhattan


Gift Rap

Peter Noel's article regarding Sean "Puffy" Combs ["Guns, Bribes, and Benjamins," December 12] should be Exhibit 1 for the proposition that freedom of the press is no guarantee of accuracy or fairness.

First, the article incorrectly reports that One Hundred Black Men, Inc. is a "think tank." It is, rather, a venerable, 37-year-old charitable organization of professional men who volunteer their time to make a real difference in the lives of our youth and in our community. Through its adopt-a-school program, mentorship program, college scholarships, corporate mentorship programs, and a host of other initiatives, including its wealth-creation summit, franchise symposium, and other initiatives in the arena of community development, the organization has a documented record of service, and its record is impeccable.

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