Letter to Examiner reporter on jails, etc.

Hi Brent,

  How's it going? I think the last time I communicated with you, you were news editor at the SFSU Xpress. Good to see you're working at the Examiner now! I just read your pieces on the city's jails in yesterday's paper (p. 8). It's always good to see a light shined on the subject of the powerful and largely unaccountable worlds of prisons and police, but I couldn't help noticing the omission of a few things that could have made these informative stories even better. If you return to write about this subject again, I hope you will discuss some of these issues:

-What the current salaries of sheriff's deputies and other personnel whose jobs could be civilianized actually are, including what they are making in overtime pay; most people don't realize how good they typically have it
-Whether taxpayer interests are being adequately represented in pay and benefit negotiations between unions and city officials (my perception is that these insiders typically collude to screw the public)
-How many SF jail and police employees live outside San Francisco, and whether the city is really as unaffordable for them as they claim (they make a lot more money than many other folks who manage to live in the city, and it could well be that their choice to live elsewhere has less to do with affordability than with the fact that they do not tend to be people who appreciate SF's more liberal, cosmopolitan, and countercultural atmosphere
-What the chances are for a lawsuit against the city government on the basis of jail overcrowding
-What percentage of the people incarcerated in San Francisco on any given night are there for victimless "crimes" such as drug use or sales, prostitution, public intoxication, etc., and how much money could be saved by granting them pardons and early releases
-What effect the overcrowding, as well as any possible staff fatigue, irritability, negligence, etc., from working 16-hour days, may be having on conditions and care for prisoners
-Whether any attempts are being made at rehabilitating prisoners or providing restitution to the victims of actual crimes, or is the entire focus on punishment, deterrence, and providing good jobs for those employed in the police/prison industry

  You might also attempt to interview some actual prisoners, especially those who may have filed complaints or grievances, and if you are denied the access to conduct private interviews with them, to make sure and expose that fact in your story. I understand that members of the civil grand jury visit the jail each year to review conditions. You might have an opportunity to learn more by accompanying them on one of these visits. In any story about police or prisons, the perspective of critics of the system, and not just those of the authorities, should be represented. Some good organizations to contact for quotes or perspectives on these issues include the Libertarian Party, the ACLU, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Copwatch, the Idriss Stelley Foundation, the Sex Workers Outreach Project, and the Erotic Service Providers Union. Families of incarcerated individuals and defense attorneys might also be able to provide valuable information, although some of them might be reluctant to speak on the record. I think there are many little instances of waste, abuse, and mistreatment that never see the light of day. For instance, are family and friends of prisoners still being charged outrageous collect call fees to accept calls from their loved ones in jail, and if so, who is profiting from this and what would it take to change it?

Power to the People!
            ((( starchild )))
    Outreach Director, Libertarian Party of San Francisco