Backtalk

Give Me a Prison Break
Enclosed please find an official communiqué from the Pickaway Correctional Institution, where I am a prisoner. The authorities were (obviously) threatened by your July/August issue's "written examples of prison slang with explanation." [The form also claims that an item on banned books "appears to be written in cipher or code."] Evidently you are doing something "right." Alas, I shall never know what it is, since the state of Ohio won't deliver your issue.
laurence james
Orient, Ohio

What a compelling group of articles about prisons and prison life here in the land of the free. Decriminalizing drug addiction is a cheap way out of a penal system going bankrupt. Medically administered free drugs aren't cheap, but would reduce crime greatly. They could spend the savings on education, the backbone of civilization.
william tracy
Mountain Home, Arkansas

Why does America have 8 to 10 times more prisoners per capita than any other democracy? Are we really supposed to believe that America has that many more criminals? Or could it be that we lock up far too many people for far too long? As someone who is serving a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for allegedly being a one-time participant in a large marijuana conspiracy, I think I know the answer.
charles crehore
Tucson, Arizona

Effective incarceration could start with an appropriate sentence that is completed. For example, life should mean life. As much as giving correctional officials input into sentences, the process should give victims the very same respect, if not more.
will marling
Executive director
National Organization for Victim Assistance

I love MJ. I think it's great that you have two female editors. Congratulations on your award. You definitely deserve it. Your prison stories are great, and they make some points that Americans need to hear. However, "snuck" is not a word, except for people who want to sound like Huck Finn. Look it up. I know; we have a couple of generations who have never read nor heard the correct past tense of "sneak." But be truly radical; lay it on your readers. They can take it.
linda sleffel
Columbus, Ohio

Ah, but "snuck" is in fact in the dictionary. From Merriam-Webster's: "From its earliest appearance in print in the late 19th century...snuck has risen to the status of standard and to approximate equality with sneaked."

Tourist Trap
Julia Whitty's "March of the Tourists," about visiting Antarctica, was very disappointing, from the silly synopsis on the contents page ("the visiting masses are too busy shopping for tea towels and postcards") to the dismissive tone of the article. I traveled to Antarctica with Quark this season. There were 73 people on board, and not a single one was too busy shopping to pay attention to environmental issues, from climate change, to the impact of tourism on penguins, to the importance of the Madrid Protocol. It may well be true that the population of the earth will grow too large to protect Antarctica from human greed, but that is hardly the work of tourists.
marshall carter-tripp
El Paso, Texas

Loaded Magazine
Bruce Falconer's "Bush to Cops: Drop Dead" incorrectly states that gun manufacturers "bypassed" the 1994 assault weapons ban by making minor alterations to their weapons. Since the law defined assault weapons based on whether or not they had several features, the manufacturers didn't bypass the law—they simply complied by eliminating features the law called for. The guns were just as deadly not because the manufacturers exploited loopholes, but because the law was ineffectively written, and the features defining an assault weapon are largely cosmetic.
jeffrey semprebon
Claremont, New Hampshire

Smug, Cheerless Journalism
As a loyal subscriber to Mother Jones I've read articles on many things we need to worry about. Not long ago, I was introduced to 10 things about to harm us concerning global warming. I vowed to live in a tent, walk everywhere, and eat only organic vegetables grown in my garden. Then came your article saying our greatest problem is ocean depletion—bleached corals and dead fish. Not having been in the ocean since Jaws, I wasn't sure what to do, but it was best to wait. Your latest investigation says to hell with fish, it's the energy crisis that matters. Well, I must admit, I've snapped. In the words of an esteemed politician, I've gone to the dark side. I'm looking for the biggest suv I can find, plan to eat only steak and roast beef, and may move into one of those McMansions we hear about. I can't afford that, but there are those neat subprime mortgages out there. Overexposure to your articles has done this to me. So I feel no guilt; it's all your fault!
carl jacobs
Tonawanda, New York