IN HIS NOV. 26 letter, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel tries to use progressive language to mask Gov. Corbett's unjustifiable $685 million prison expansion project. Wetzel's two main points are disingenuous and misleading.

First, Wetzel cites a decline in the prison population since June to bolster Corbett's Justice Reinvestment efforts. This is a sleight of hand - using numbers that merely reflect a decline from the sharp increase that happened just before. Pennsylvania's prison population has gone down since June only because the population spiked significantly in the middle of the year. If Wetzel compared today's population to the amount one year ago, he would find that there are actually slightly more people in Pennsylvania's prisons today than there were in October 2011, up from 51,323 to 51,382.

Wetzel's second argument is equally deceptive. Under Corbett's direction, Pennsylvania is spending $400 million to build two new prisons - SCI Phoenix I and II - on the grounds of Graterford prison. Wetzel wants us to believe these prisons will replace the aging SCI Graterford. Yet, again and again, Wetzel refuses to publicly commit to closing Graterford, and his own spokeswoman, Susan McNaughton, has admitted that the facility will remain available for overcrowding. The secretary has also acknowledged that it would be cheaper to renovate the existing facility, but refuses to consider a renovation. Most egregious, the layout for the two new prisons, already substantially bigger than the existing Graterford, includes plans for future housing units in addition to the 4,100 beds currently in construction.

Wetzel concludes by telling readers that there will always be a need for prisons. As long as Pennsylvania continues down the path of mass incarceration, filling new prisons disproportionately with people of color while cutting funding for much-needed services and education, this will surely be the case. If Wetzel really wants to reduce our prison population, he should encourage Corbett to decarcerate Pennsylvania by ending the failed war on drugs, repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and creating parole eligibility for the thousands of aging men and women serving life sentences. If we invest the saved money in the things people need - education, job training, health care, and drug and alcohol treatment - our communities will be safer and we can talk about closing prisons, not opening new ones.

Matt Pillischer

Decarcerate PA

Seasonal thoughts

Since Barack OClaus and the Santacrats won the election, here is what will happen.

He will drive the "Thelma-Louise" economy-mobile over the cliff. On his way across the sky, he will take all the money he can from that level.

Then, as he descends, he will start taking from the middle class. He will do this by allowing the Bush tax rates to expire. These rates affect everyone, no matter what he says.

As he hits the ground, he will take what is left, by confiscating people's 401(k)s and IRAs.

Then he will put the car in "park" in front of the U.N. (Useless Nations) and give them permission to tax U.S. citizens.

That money will then be redistributed to other countries around the world, just to fit his global political view.

As I look at the makeup of the Santacrat party, with all the communists and socialists; I realize that "tail-gunner" Joe was right.

Tom Bell

Philadelphia

Letter has them on edge

Re: "Cliff notes: Who else on the edge?" (letter, Nov. 29).

I must say I was quite amused by your letter writer's views on the world. The good news is it is because of people such as he, and his ilk, that the Republican Party is doomed to minority status for the rest of our lives.

First he goes on a rant, criticizing Philadelphia protesters who were upset by the murder of a Florida teenager. But then he continues on his path of destruction, along the way trashing the black clergy, females who are in need of the legal procedure of abortion, drivers with handicap-parking signs in front of their homes, and people whom only he deems unworthy of collecting food stamps. And of course he had to put the icing on his hate cake by rising up in righteous indignation over those darn gay and lesbian citizens, because they had the unmitigated gall to seek their constitutionally guaranteed equality.

But I will give him this - he does end his rant on a high note. He said that if he is ever fool enough to walk into another voting booth in the City of Philadelphia, he deserves to go over a cliff. On that, we are in complete agreement.

Marc Golde

Merion Station

You deserve to go over a cliff.

The people who have handicap signs that you say are too lazy to drive and walk to a parking space, I hope someday you don't have to go over that cliff.

Lisa Costello

Philadelphia