- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on the sentencing of former prison worker Joyce Mitchell.

Sept. 30

Like many people, including the judge, we don’t buy the sob story Joyce Mitchell gave in court Monday.

The former tailor shop instructor at Clinton Correctional Facility said fear was the main reason she helped Richard Matt and David Sweat break out of the maximum-security Dannemora prison - fear that they would kill her husband if she didn’t. That’s not what she said in a statement to authorities earlier, when she admitted she had lied in a prior statement but that this time she was telling the truth.

Also, logic is against her claim that they coerced her. If she had reported their escape scheme to authorities, Mr. Matt and Mr. Sweat would have been placed in solitary with no contact with the outside world. Could they have still used criminal underworld ties to call in a hit on her or her husband? Doubtful, and authorities could have offered her protection. While she might have lost her job for her illicit inmate relationship, authorities would also have been grateful to her for preventing a calamity. She certainly would have been safer than by making that calamity happen.

We don’t believe Ms. Mitchell was a victim in this case. We think she enjoyed flirting with danger and lacked moral boundaries. That is the personality profile that has emerged from the reporting we have read on her.

“I never intended for any of this to happen,” Ms. Mitchell said in court Monday. That’s not entirely true. She did intend to break rules to have a sexual relationship with prison inmates, then to do what she knew were illegal favors for them, then to smuggle them escape tools, then to meet them at the escape point with a car, shotgun and food, let them murder her husband in cold blood and run off with them to Mexico. She may not have intended to get caught. She may not have intended to suffer any consequences on herself. She may not have intended three weeks of terror as authorities combed woods and towns for the fugitive escapees.

But she had criminal intent.

Judges face a range of criminals for sentencing. Some deserve leniency, and some do not. Joyce Mitchell did not, and she did not receive it at the hands of the judge.

She had already received a generous helping of mercy, however. She was only charged with smuggling escape tools to Mr. Sweat and Mr. Matt, not with taking part in a first-degree murder plot on her husband and not with having sexual encounters with inmates.

She will also continue to receive a state pension while in prison and after she is released, thanks to a provision in the state constitution that people like us have been calling to change for years.

While the state must give that pension to Ms. Mitchell, it can and should take it back to pay restitution to help repair some of the damage Mr. Matt and Mr. Sweat did to Clinton Correctional - holes in cell walls, steam pipes, etc.

Ultimately, Ms. Mitchell will repay only a sliver of the damages she has done the people of New York. Her sobbing and pleading in court Monday came across as childish, whining and self-pity from someone who’s already been shown leniency.

She is also fortunate her husband Lyle is sticking with her. It’s hard to tell why or how long that will last, but it seems he was affected by her 11th-hour realization that she loved him after all and wasn’t ready to be party to his murder.

We all, at some point in our lives, do bad deeds and receive love, mercy and pity we don’t deserve. May these be Joyce Mitchell’s saving grace and make her a better person. She needs our prayers, but also our justice.

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Online:

https://goo.gl/QOXfCC

The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiatives to better assimilate non-violent criminals back into society.

Sept. 27

While some are running around trying to get human rights for imprisoned animals, some in state government are seeking human rights for imprisoned people.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, acting on the recommendations of his Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration, announced a dozen new initiatives that will make it easier for non-violent criminals to ease back into society and lead productive lives.

Not everyone who is in jail or prison is a permanent threat to society. And not everyone who is arrested for a crime serves a life sentence in prison. Eventually, those people are released.

But some continue to serve a life sentence because of discrimination based on their criminal convictions. What often awaits them on the outside are significant challenges in housing, employment and health care that make it difficult for them to readjust.

That can result in these struggling individuals resorting to crime and getting sent back to jail - fueling a vicious cycle of crime and poverty and unnecessarily costing taxpayers on several levels.

Right now, it costs about $60,000 a year to incarcerate a single inmate. Imagine the savings to taxpayers - in terms of not only lower incarceration costs, but the costs of social services and crime - if some of those inmates can be successfully reintegrated into their communities and families. Those costs are what the governor’s proposals are intended to offset.

One recommendation would forbid discrimination in public housing based solely upon a conviction. Another ensures that those with criminal records can obtain state licenses, such as for selling real estate or being a barber or paramedic. Another limits inquiries by state agencies into criminal backgrounds.

The state also plans to increase access to health care, as substance abuse treatment is often needed to keep former inmates on the straight and narrow. The plan will also ensure that mentally ill people can get treatment and housing. And it will reduce bureaucratic barriers to non-abusive former inmates living with their spouses and families.

Research shows that former inmates who have been subjected to re-entry policies are less likely to commit new crimes.

These proposals won’t solve all the problems associated with incarceration, including housing youths with adults and holding non-violent offenders in jail because they are unable to secure bail.

But the efforts are a good first step that must be followed by more study, more initiatives and more accountability.

Let’s hope they continue.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1L42ANN

The New York Times on the world’s attempt to eradicate malaria.

Sept. 29

Malaria will kill about 438,000 people this year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. That large number is tragic, but it still represents an improvement over earlier decades. The death rate of the mosquito-borne disease has fallen by 60 percent since 2000 and the rate of infection is down 37 percent, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization and Unicef. This progress shows what can be achieved when the world makes a serious attempt to deal with a major public health problem.

Now, the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are calling on the world to eradicate the disease by 2040, potentially saving 11 million lives in the next 25 years. They say this goal can be achieved for between $90 billion and $120 billion and would produce economic benefits of $2 trillion.

Eliminating malaria by 2040 is very optimistic. Some medical experts who have worked on the disease are skeptical of that ambitious goal because it relies on medical advances like a single-dose cure and an effective vaccine that may not be available for years. In their report, the United Nations and the Gates Foundation argue that such breakthroughs will be available in time to meet the target.

Even if big advancements cannot be achieved in that time frame, there is every reason to believe that the world can further reduce infections and deaths from malaria in the next 25 years. Many countries have brought the disease under control by using insecticides, giving away bed nets and providing malaria drugs for free or at a low cost. They have been able to do so with the help of expertise and aid from countries like the United States and Britain and with charitable donations. But some of these gains are fragile as more mosquitoes and the parasites that cause the disease become resistant to insecticides and drugs.

With sustained strategies, some countries will be able to eradicate the disease within their borders. But this will not happen unless industrialized nations, as well as fast-growing developing countries, put more money into research, drugs, bed nets and insecticides.

As the Ebola epidemic last year in West Africa showed, the health systems of poor countries need long-term investments so that they are prepared to cope with epidemics of all kinds, not just a single disease. Malaria remains a deadly scourge in large part because many countries do not have functional health systems.

___

Online:

https://nyti.ms/1JCvAqt

The Middletown Times Herald-Record on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s resignation.

Sept. 28

When someone whose political career has placed him second in line to the presidency quits his job solely because of attacks on him by members of his own political party, it’s a sure sign that party, in this case, the Republican Party, is in trouble.

That’s a serious national problem, but it’s not fatal. America has survived internal strife within political parties, even the demise of political parties, throughout history. The primary risk is what the discontent within that party poses to the nation’s ability to govern itself. Indeed, in this case, the “discontent” that forced John Boehner to announce his resignation, not only as speaker of the House of Representatives but even as a member of Congress, amounts to an all-out war on government.

It is being waged by right-wing extremists, who have been given the keys to the car by other, compliant members of the Republican Party and who seem determined to drive it off the road into a ditch if they don’t get their way. That’s a choice, not necessarily a healthy one, a party can choose to make for itself, but when it threatens to take the rest of the country into the ditch with it, then the internal party strife is clearly not about governing, but rather, a revolution.

Boehner, who never appeared to be comfortable with the speakership, suffers from something the Tea Party, evangelical and other ultraconservative members of the Republican Party are apparently immune to: a sense of reality. As a member of the House for 25 years, the Ohio Republican understands that, in order to have a healthy, functioning government for everyone, one has to sometimes compromise, even agree to go along with something with which one disagrees strongly. You can’t always get your way. Temper tantrums are counterproductive.

So, when the right-wing extremists in his party’s congressional delegation demanded that the entire government be shut down if the new budget bill contained funding for Planned Parenthood, Boehner apparently decided he’d had enough.

Although unequivocally conservative and opposed to abortion, he also knew that defunding Planned Parenthood, which is about much more than providing abortions, did not have a chance of getting through the Senate and the White House. He also knew that Republicans were blamed by most Americans for shutting down the government two years ago in protest over Obamacare, which today provides millions of Americans with health insurance. Threats were made: If Boehner didn’t defund Planned Parenthood or shut down the government in protest, the revolutionaries would come after him the way they came after former GOP House majority leader Eric Cantor, who was defeated in a primary battle.

So Boehner said, “I’m done.” That may well be the healthy decision for him, but the question for the rest of us is whether Republicans can select a replacement who appreciates the need for healthy governance and can maintain enough support within the GOP to provide it. Judging from Boehner’s unhappy five-year tenure as speaker and the stream of anti-government rhetoric coming from the party’s insurgents, the prospect is not good. Some adult is going to have to reclaim the keys to the Republican car.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1KRJWV3

The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on the Republican presidential debates.

Sept. 24

Generally speaking, you would think that the more people running for president, the more choices voters would have and, thus, the better the chance of finding the best candidate.

In the process that has prevailed this year, though, that doesn’t seem to be the way it’s working.

The American system has historically been the Republicans vs. the Democrats. Occasionally, a third-party candidate has become an actual factor in the outcome of an election, but not as the victor.

Such third-party candidates as George Wallace, Ralph Nader and Ross Perot have had an impact on elections, though not as contenders with a serious chance to win the general vote.

Third-party candidacy is good for America, though not good for the mainstream candidate losing more votes to the “outsider.”

This year, a plethora of candidates has emerged early in the campaign and, now, some appear to be losing steam.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin became the first of more than a dozen serious contenders for the Republican nomination to bow out of the race, but they won’t be the last.

They scarcely got to dispense their message at all because of the debate format that was used to acquaint voters with all of the contenders.

While debates are proven procedures in demonstrating candidates’ readiness to hold an important office, they have flaws, which are magnified when a multitude of participants are involved.

For example, virtual unknown Ben Carson rose to prominence when a couple of glib remarks in the first televised debate drew public attention.

Donald Trump has soared to the top of the polls with one notable - or outrageous - remark after another.

Carly Fiorina has staked her claim with a well-timed rebuttal during the second debate to Trump’s earlier negative reference to her face.

Other than Trump’s barrage of newsworthy remarks, campaigns are being sustained or lost on the strength of only occasional quotes attributed to one candidate or another.

Jeb Bush began as a favorite, lost standing while being swallowed up by the debate format and then emerged from the second having retrieved some of his luster.

Is this the way to choose a president? Should a decision that historic rest on something as chancy as a person’s ability and opportunity to slip a catchy observation into a debate where 10 people are jostling for recognition?

If 16 candidates are going to vie for a party’s nomination, the voters ought to have more effective ways to get to know them than a three-hour debate in which loudness and cleverness often overcome reason and depth.

While the ratings for the debates have been high, good TV doesn’t necessarily translate into a solid means of choosing the best presidential candidates.

___

Online:

https://bit.ly/1O1TBh6

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