Prison progress

Your "Parole: A system failure" editorial (Dec. 6) ignores the state Department of Corrections' progress in fostering a safe prison environment that properly prepares inmates for a law-abiding life upon release.

The department continually evaluates its educational, vocational and treatment programs for improvement areas. One such improvement is a comprehensive drug-interdiction policy recognized nationally as a best practice. This policy has helped decrease assaults on staff by inmates by 7.2 percent and the number of drug finds by 12.4 percent.

We also surveyed parole violators to learn why they returned to prison. That information was used to reorganize our Community Orientation Reintegration program, which provides inmates with refresher courses on such skills as job interviews, family relations and coping strategies.

We agree that the commonwealth must continually work to evaluate and strengthen its prison system, and the Department of Corrections has worked diligently toward that goal, so inmates have help and are less likely to re-offend.

Jeffrey A. Beard

Secretary of corrections

Camp Hill

Antismoking bias

The amount of editorial bias displayed in Wednesday's article "Suspended smoking ban didn't help casinos in November" was outrageous.

The story ignored the fact that the ban was still in place Nov. 1-16, and it did not even ask, much less seek to answer, the question of what the casinos' losses might have been if the ban continued. Nor did the story compare loss figures for the banned half of November to the free-choice half.

And while the article did mention that Harrah's was up about 9 percent, it neglected to note that although Harrah's slots were down 12 percent in the free-choice period of October, they plunged to a loss of 20 percent during the ban.

Finally, while the story noted the month-long average loss of 7.8 percent, it ignored the fact that the first smoking-ban week in October had seen losses of 19.5 percent. A better headline, more honestly reflective of the real news, would have been "Lifting of smoking ban cuts casino losses by more than half."

Michael J. McFadden

Philadelphia

Worthy layoffs

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have disclosed that the issue of the economy has finally hit Congress. Reid announced that he has been forced to lay off 20 senators, and Pelosi will lay off 60 representatives in the House.

The good news is that Congress doesn't have enough members to enact rescue legislation to stimulate the economy. As a result, the economy is booming. The stock market is up, auto sales are up, and retail sales are at the highest they have been in years. Economic experts believe that if we can keep our senators and representatives unemployed, we will have a great 2009.

James Gallagher

Warrington

Unelected officials

It is disheartening to hear Mayor Nutter speak of possibly eliminating row offices such as the sheriff or the clerk of quarter sessions. These officials are elected, and thus can be held responsible for the jobs they do every four years by voters.

Nutter has created a chief integrity officer position, which mirrors what the inspector general does. He's creating a 311 system even though people are losing their jobs, and there are already many phone numbers that people can call for services. Nutter reestablished the Office of the Arts. He created an Office of Sustainability; after listening to the proposed cuts, I wonder what is actually being sustained.

None of the newly created offices is elected, so those officials are not directly responsible to the voters. I wonder if Nutter believes he is emperor of a colony or mayor of a city that has been a model of democracy?

David Krain

Philadelphia

City needs casinos

I support the SugarHouse casino. City Hall has delayed casino gaming long enough. The delay clearly has cost the city millions in revenue that could have been used to help it through our current financial crisis.

Maybe if the casinos were opened two years ago, the revenues could have been used for our firehouses, libraries, recreation centers and swimming pools.

I know times are tough, and we are all hurting financially, but it would be a disgrace if our children have to pay the price, or any lives are lost, because of a lack of city services.

Randall Diaz

Philadelphia