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To the editor:

I am responding to the Jan. 21 letter from Kenneth A. Poole, titled, ``Labeled as bad people.' In June 1988, my home was broken into by two people who had lengthy criminal records. Subsequently, both were convicted. My consequent involvement with the judicial system and investigation into the practices of the N.C. Department of Corrections have led me to conclusions that are very different from Poole's.It may help your readers to know that Poole is an inmate at the Yanceyville Prison Unit. He has been convicted on several different counts. They may draw their own conclusions from this fact.

If inmates have not been proven by our judicial system to be ``dangerous to the community'and ``not able to behave as normal individuals,' why are they incarcerated?

As to the religious ``spirit' of inmates, how does Poole know that the ``majority' are ``very religious'? Does he know the percentage of inmates who attend religious services within the prison? I suppose we are to assume that they became committed to their religion while in prison. Otherwise, their religious values would have prevented their committing the crimes in the first place.

The statement that having inmates working for the Department of Transportation ``saves state residents millions of dollars each year,' is misleading. It costs the state approximately $37.47 a day per inmate. Multiply that by 18,000 (Poole's number) and you'll quickly see that, as a state, we could fund numerous clean-up and maintenance jobs for that amount.

The primary purpose of prison is to punish. Rehabilitation is a secondary goal. Due to the lenient plea-bargaining system in North Carolina and the problem of overcrowded jails, most criminals have committed quite a few crimes before ever setting foot inside a prison. While there they may learn how to commit crimes so as not to be found out, but the majority are not rehabilitated. The rate of recidivism in North Carolina is high. Perhaps if prison sentences were more lengthy and severe, the desire not to return to prison might be enough incentive to help prisoners rehabilitate themselves.

The one point on which Poole and I agree is that inmates don't deserve ridicule. He wrote: ``They were given a chance to live by the laws of our society and they chose not to do that.' Respect, that must be earned, doesn't come free. Cappi Stanley Greensboro

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