The Republicans' attempted theft of our Dix Park is a travesty and absolute disgrace ["The Dix disaster," March 27]. A better deal for the N.C. taxpayers? Better than $68 million and ultimately a free state park worth an additional $150 million to $200 million? C'mon. But they want more money to spend on mental health care? All of a sudden they care about that? Since when? They just want to steal our park so they can sell it off to their developer buddies. That's so egregiously transparent it seems like some bizarre joke. Just how stupid and gullible do they think we are? If it were Charlotte rather than Raleigh being cheated, this would surely get the governor's veto, but it isn't, and we certainly can't expect him to be any more honorable than the rest of them. Shame, shame, shame...
Dr. John E. Fels, Raleigh
On March 6, INDY Week published a news brief about a Casey Foundation report ["Some facts about youth incarceration"] with data that North Carolina's youth confinement rate decreased by 43 percent from 1997 to 2010.
Declining juvenile incarceration rates are positive developments because correctional institutions are typically dangerous, ineffective and expensive. However, it's also important to note:
• The U.S. has the highest youth incarceration rate among industrialized nations.
• N.C.'s juvenile prisons—called "youth development centers" (YDCs)—have been plagued by allegations of physical abuse and findings of unsafe conditions.
• N.C. is the only state that treats all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults when charged with crimes and then denies them appeals for return to the juvenile system. The juvenile incarceration rate doesn't include the 16- and 17-year-olds in adult jails and prisons, or youths ages 13-15 who are in adult facilities after being transferred to and convicted in adult court.
• Juveniles are increasingly placed in psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs)—locked facilities with minimal supports for youths with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. As youth incarceration rates declined, PRTF beds increased dramatically.
• N.C.'s school-to-prison pipeline remains huge. During 2011–12, students missed nearly 800,000 school days because of suspension and thus were more likely to engage in delinquent activity. In 2011, 43 percent of all delinquency complaints were school-based.
• Youth are locked up for minor offenses. In March 2012, the N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported that N.C. "detains as many low-risk youth as it does high-risk youth" and "[m]ore medium risk youth are detained than high risk youth[.]"
• Racial disparities remain disturbing. In 2011, black youth were 26 percent of the total juvenile population but 61 percent of youth admitted to detention centers and 72 percent of youth committed to YDCs.
There's no time for celebration or complacency. There's too much work to do.
Jason Langberg, Staff Attorney & Director of Advocates for Children's Services' Push Out Prevention Project, a statewide project of Legal Aid of North Carolina
I make the following observations about Lisa Sorg's article on the Goathouse Refuge [March 20] as a longtime investigative journalist largely reporting on animal issues (Village Voice, Atlantic Monthly) and the author of several investigative books. There are glaring journalistic problems in Sorg's article which are a result of her stretching far beyond verifiable fact in order to come up with a 'story' where there is none.
First, Sorg's prolific use of unidentified sources and unnamed volunteers is immediately problematic. Second, she references documents that are nearly three years old and which express concerns that have long been remedied, which begs the question as to why she mentioned them at all. Sorg goes on to condemn the refuge's adoption rate by unfairly comparing it with that of an organization whose operational structure is totally different. Sorg's inference that Siglinda Scarpa is a hoarder is outlandish given Scarpa's active solicitation of adopters through email bombardments, postings, events and viewing/adoption opportunities.
Sorg would not have had to fact-stretch so far to find a legitimate animal abuse story had she simply looked at N.C.'s shelter system. Many shelters here still gas their animals, offer limited and in some cases no viewing hours, are overcrowded and are poorly maintained. Some give animals three days for either owner reclaiming or adoption before killing them.
In an effort to compensate for this antiquated system, a raging pet overpopulation problem and negligence by owners who fail to sterilize their pets and more readily dump them, Scarpa probably overcompensates. However, her refuge is clean, the animals receive prompt medical attention as many come in with dastardly illness, and she is a passionate advocate for spay and neuter. It is quite clear on visiting the Goathouse Refuge that these animals are cared for and that Scarpa wants to find them homes.
Judith Reitman, Hillsborough
Editor's response: Many readers have questioned whether INDY Week has written about animal welfare. Since 2005, we have published dozens of articles on the topic: the conditions in no-kill shelters, the inhumanity of the controversial practice of euthanasia by gas, anti-tethering ordinances, dog fighting, spay and neuter programs, foster networks, puppy mill legislation and animal law. Our annual Dog Days issue features the "least adoptable pets" in the Triangle. As a result of that coverage, many of those pets found good, permanent homes. (All of these articles can be found on this website.)