The prison problem

The article "City's packed prisons may get worse" (Inquirer, May 18) included the observation that drug offenders, among other nonviolent criminals, constitute 60 percent of the prisoners in our system. This fact alone should speak to the need to revise our laws rather than continue policies that do little to protect, and often ensnare the innocent.

While jail time may change the behavior of victimless criminals, I have little doubt that the change entailed does more harm than good to the majority of those incarcerated. In addition, the cost of housing these offenders appears to offset any so-called social gains.

Common sense, an acceptance of differences, and the revision of intellectually indefensible laws would do more to alleviate this problem than more prisons and jail time.

Ian MacFarlane

Philadelphia

Public transit

John Timpane's article "The American car culture is running out of gas" (Inquirer, May 18) was a reasonable lament of the state of the car, but it offered zero solutions.

We need Web sites that enable us to swap jobs with people who live where we work and work where we live.

We need a frictionless rail system from the Poconos to the Shore, financed by the casinos. In Philly, the new casinos should turn the Market-Frankford line into a free ride paid for by slot machines.

Across the nation, we need a new commercial freight system - again frictionless - to replace our diesel-fuming trucks.

We need to have the full public carry the cost of public transportation so it finally becomes cleaner, drier, safer and cheaper than our cars.

Jack Bellis

Wyndmoor

More efficiency

I recently returned from my second trip to London, where millions of people travel to and from work, and visit family, friends, pubs etc. via the "Tube," a.k.a. the London Underground (Inquirer, May 18). I thought it would be tough to get used to, but the pure efficiency of that mode of transport is too hard to ignore. A train comes every three to five minutes, and the system is amazingly clean, safe and stress-free.

If SEPTA could reach the same level of efficiency as the Tube, more people would rely on it. People shouldn't have to wait 30 to 60 minutes for the next train.

Bob Malin

Philadelphia

Education values

Noel Weyrich blames families fleeing the city on the school district because it has failed to solve the problem of disruptive students ("Poor schools drive college grads away," May 18). However, there are a plethora of problems that cause my neighbors to flee, including poor test scores, high poverty rates, and unsightly mesh on the windows.

So you can remove 5,000 student troublemakers and you still won't get college graduates to send their kids to our schools. They don't want their kids sitting in classes with kids whose families may not have the time, ability or values that emphasize education as a priority.

Investigate the obstacles that prevent qualified students from graduating, and then develop quality programs that address these issues. If we are successful in increasing the number of college graduates, the value of education will trickle down to the children.

Mayor Nutter asks citizens to take responsibility for curing some of the city's social ills rather than always pointing out the failings of an overburdened system.

Bridget McFadden

Counselor

Community College of Philadelphia

Weak links

Having taught special needs, science, math and vocational classes in Philadelphia for more than 30 years, I am well aware of the plight of our city's public school students. However, I disagree with Noel Weyrich's presumption that "Mayor Nutter's education secretary is wasting time on some silly symbolic effort to boost the city's college-educated population" (Inquirer, May 18).

In my experience, one of the weakest links in the education of our schoolchildren is the absence of adequate role models and mentors in the community, i.e., adults who live nearby, go to work every day, and show by example how to be college students.

Nutter deserves praise for encouraging urban adults to go back to college and thus become role models for our children.

Dianne Tzouras

Philadelphia