Wednesday, July 4, 2012: Solitary confinement, paying for state subsidy cuts

Posted July 03, 2012, at 3:02 p.m.

Schneck ballot

I was happy to see John Schneck on the primary ballot last week because I know that he will stand up for Bangor in the Maine House of Representatives. John has shown his dedication to the Bangor community for many years by living, working and raising his kids here. We need politicians in Augusta who have shown this type of commitment to the area they represent.

Unlike some politicians, John is not running to score partisan points or for political gain. He is running because he genuinely wants to help find common-sense solutions to pressing issues, the failing economy, the rising cost of health care, and declining access to high-quality public education. I hope that everyone in Bangor will join me in supporting John Schneck for state representative this November.

Christopher Urquhart

Bangor

Court ruling

I understand the United States Supreme Court’s decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I just don’t agree with it.

First, I can’t get past the concept that government has now made me a forced consumer, to buy a product, solely for my personal use, simply because I breathe. (Please do not try the car insurance comparison. Nobody makes you drive. But if you wish to live, you must literally breathe!) If I do not, then they “tax” me. Second, government attorneys argued that this tax at times was not a tax, but a penalty. Well, legally speaking, it cannot be both. Thus government decided that it would be a penalty.

But wait! Chief Justice John Roberts changed it back to a tax in his recent ruling. That creates another problem, which could still make the law unconstitutional. Per the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 7, “All Bills for raising Revenue [you know, TAXES] shall originate in the House of Representatives.” The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act originated in the U.S. Senate!

It seems the Supreme Court overlooked this point. Another point: When and what will government force me to buy next? Someday down the road, that door will get kicked wide open and the Affordable Care Act will be used as precedence. Fellow citizens, the incline on the slide to socialism just increased dramatically.

Greg Paquet

Smithfield

How many families are cheated

With Memorial Day behind us and July Fourth near it’s appropriate to consider our gratitude for our military and veterans. Our government determines who our enemies are; usually some country, its government and its military. Humans like ourselves suffer death, injury, absence from loved ones and financial loss.

On another level we are constantly fighting against poverty and injustice here. We have made progress because injustice stirs indignation to respond somehow. My grandfather burned to death in a paper mill in Maine at age 43. My father died of leukemia while working in that same mill at 45 (chemical exposures?).

A couple years ago I was forced to retire because of severe cervical spinal stenosis, a shoulder that needs joint replacement, severed nerve in my arm, etc. etc. I sought relief through workers’ compensation. The hearing officer ruled favorably on every point EXCEPT giving the company a total offset because of the pension I earned.

This is contrary to Maine law. I appealed to the Maine Supreme Court who declined to hear the case as they do in 96 percent of these cases. Workers’ compensation is going to reinstitute an appellate division someday. I wonder how many injured workers in Maine and their families have been cheated in the same manner. Robbing families makes it personal when justice is denied.

Jeff Wheeler

Westport Island

Taxpayer costs

Thank you to Maine Community Colleges for having the good sense to realize that schools cannot justifiably pass on state subsidy cuts to local taxpayers or students as was done recently by the board of RSU 19.

Raising school taxes or tuition is not the right way to cope with inflation or state subsidy cuts which should be absorbed within the school system and administration by cutting costs and positions as necessary instead of raising taxes or tuition during severe, prolonged recession.

Hadley Smith

Palmyra

Garden votes

A year ago the Bangor Community Garden began providing space for folks to plant flowers and produce for the table. It was an immediate success and had to expand to meet the demand. This summer it has grown again.

The garden is now in competition for a grant with 14 other communities around the country. The grant will help with improvements to better serve the public. Five of the 15 communities will split $20,000. The award will be based on the five who attain the most votes.You can vote at www.deloachcommunitygardens.com. The Bangor Garden is on the bottom row of photos, second from the right. Voting can be done every day until Aug. 6.

This is a chance for all of the BDN readers to pull together to help out a very worthy project. I hope you will all take the time to vote every day until the end of the contest.

Dusty Fisher

Brewer

Solitary confinement

Like the Maine Department of Corrections and the ACLU of Maine (BDN, June 19, 2012), the Maine Council of Churches submitted testimony to hearings on solitary confinement before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. Prolonged solitary confinement causes severe psychological harm and violates the inherent God-given dignity and worth of every person.

Maine is leading the way in drastically reducing the use of segregation and using better alternatives to modify prisoner behavior. As Commissioner Joseph Ponte explained in a video interview with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, “The … data we’re pulling is showing that what we’re doing now is safer than what we were doing before.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, who convened last week’s hearing, said: “We can no longer slam the cell door and turn our backs on the impact our policies have on those incarcerated and the safety of our nation.”

As people of faith, we agree. Paying attention to what happens behind the prison walls is part of our moral responsibility toward the common good. Corrections professionals here and elsewhere have moved beyond the antiquated “lock them up and throw away the key” attitude and we as citizens ought to support them. Mississippi, which reduced its use of solitary by 75 percent, saw a marked decrease in prison violence. We believe the alternatives being used here will benefit all of Maine in years to come.

Jill Saxby

Portland

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