End the torture of solitary confinement

I urge Gov. Jerry Brown to intervene in the unlawful policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Current practices of solitary confinement inside secure housing units amount to cruel and unusual punishment and are a form of torture, according to many religions and U.S. law. Today, corrections officers have more control over the longevity of inmates' sentences than the judge who sentenced them.

The corrections department policy demanding "debriefing" of those in solitary confinement before leaving inhumane isolation cells encourages false information. The policy makes it easy for corrections officers to target inmates of their choosing, without appeal.

Add to this that LGBT people are often isolated "for their own protection" from the general population. We have a recipe for disaster that keeps our prisons full and the system from offering rehabilitative programs to those in solitary confinement. This policy increases mental illness among inmates, making them less prepared for life on the outside.

I urge Brown to follow the law and honor the five core demands of the hunger strikers to bring an end to the torture of indefinite isolation.

The Rev. Will McGarvey

Pittsburg McGarvey serves as pastor at Community Presbyterian Church of Pittsburg and is a member of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.


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Letter headline was misleading

This is regarding the letter from John Hitchen, "Social Security op-out harms BART employees." The headline of the letter is misleading, in that it suggests BART employees have opted-out.

I agree with the first paragraph of his letter, that BART employees (and other state and local government employees) do not participate in Social Security. However, that nonparticipation should be explained.

The federal government cannot tax state and local government entities (through Federal Insurance Contributions Act, known as FICA). Therefore, for public employees to participate in the Social Security system, their employer must voluntarily opt-in and sign an agreement with the Social Security Administration.

It is not an "accounting trick," as Hitchen wrote.

Michal Ouffutt

El Cerrito

Israelis yearn for real security

In his recent letter, Jon Peterson insists that Israeli settlements are killing the so-called peace process.

He and his Jewish Voice for Peace friends must think the American people are gullible and stupid. Anyone who is paying attention knows that Israelis yearn for peace and are more than willing to discuss the settlements -- but only in return for real security.

Those of us who can understand Arabic, and even those who can't, hear the Palestinians loudly proclaiming they want all of Israel, not just the settlements. When the Israelis returned Gaza to the Palestinians, what they got in return was Hamas and rockets.

A glance at the geography of Israel shows the Israelis can ill afford another Gaza in the West Bank. And as for peace in the Middle East, all one has to do is look at what's happening with Israel's neighbors to realize that goal is a long way off indeed.

Lewis A. Glenn

Danville

Teachers give us the tools to learn

First, I would like to say I am not a teacher nor is anyone in my family in the field of education.

Recently I have read that some think our teachers receive adequate pay and have no right to ask for more. I also read some teachers buy supplies for their class with their own money. This is just not right.

Teachers are the backbone of our society. Without teachers, there would be no doctors, nurses, engineers, scientist or, for that matter, politicians.

Teachers give us all the tools we need to succeed in whatever we choose to do in life. We need to give them the tools and support to make us the most educated society in the world. Our future depends on them.

I thank them for all they did for me and for all the others they have helped. Many of these teachers could have earned a lot more money following another field, but instead chose to become teachers.

Because of them, I'm still learning at age 89.

John Whalen

Walnut Creek