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June 09, 2003 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2003-06-09

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 9, 2003
420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109 SRAVYA CHIRUMAMILLA JASON PESICK
letters@michigandaily.com Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of
UNIE RSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE the majority of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
1890 necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
N ot unlike other communities around o u n drently spent on incarceration, but also
the state and the country, the ow n s n g th e P son s increaing the number of productive
Washtenaw County Jail is facing an workers and citizena.
acute oercrowding crisis, as The Ann Prison overcrowding could be fixed with better policies Of the possible solutiona to the over-
Arbor News reported on Sunday, June 1. In ~ ~ 'AV~.1 A i1i VU J'L.'.V-"~ crowding, a program known as alterna-
an effort to relieve the situation, a 13-per- --- tive placements appears to be quite
son taskforce has been assembled to inves- lent crimes, such as minor drug viola- diverts even more funds to the prison sys- appealing. This method of rehabilitation
tigate possible solutions. The taskforce is tions. Released prisoners would be tem, which currently sucks valuable dollars offers a stable place at night as well as the
investigating viable remedies for the released on a short leash or to drug treat- away from other programs, such as educa- tools and knowledge for success in the
prison, which is 40 percent too small. ment. This possibility could immediately tion and healthcare. Expanding the bloated world outside of prison, so that inmates
These solutions include releasing inmates tackle overcrowding. prison system would be counterproductive will be able to contribute to society after
who are non-threatening to the community, Just before handing over the governor- and is unnecessary. their sentences are complete. With these
prison expansion and semi-alternative ship to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former Furthermore, un-rehabilitated prison- acquired skills, ex-prisoners will be less
placements, a program in which prisoners Gov. John Engler signed a bill on Christmas ers are one of the primary causes of over- likely to attempt to return to jail.
work during the daytime but are watched day abolishing mandatory sentences for crowding at the Washtenaw County Jail. At the state-level, alternative place-
by professional staff at nighttime. drug offenders. By doing this, Engler pre- The overflow is in part because of the ments are an advantageous route as well.
The taskforce's first objective is to emptively contributed to easing overcrowd- high numbers of people who continue To invest in personalized and effective
contact sentencing judges and have them ing in prisons. This landmark bill should committing crimes and returning to jail rehabilitation now would save the state
consider which prisoners can be released. not only be upheld, but should retroactively after they have served their sentences. If money in the long run. Less crime later
While this may seem like a frightening release such prisoners, to shave off some of an effective, intimate rehabilitation pro- translates into fewer prison costs down the
step to take, if handled properly, releasing the current overcrowding. gram were implemented, the jail's popu- road. Focusing funds on prisoner rehabili-
some prisoners is a reasonable solution to Another option being examined by the lation problem would be alleviated. In tation programs would be a fruitful invest-
lessen the prison's overpopulation prob- taskforce is prison expansion. Though this addition, such a program would ultimate- ment for the state to make, not only for its
lem, especially considering the high num- would accommodate all those incarcerated, ly reduce the number of repeat offenders, budget, but in order to improve the quality
ber of prisoners incarcerated for non-vio- it does not solve the problem. This solution not only saving the state resources cur- of life for residents across the state.

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Abortion legislation a violation
Congress is passing unconstitutional legislation

The right to vote
Granholm should have allowed vote on Detroit board

With conservatives controlling the
levers of power of the federal gov-
ernment, those who support
reproductive rights have had reason to
worry. This week's decision by the U.S.
House of Representatives to pass legislation
infringing on these rights is now proof that
these advocates were right to be concerned.
Last week, the House passed a bill that
directly challenges the U.S. Supreme Court's
1973 decision in the case of Roe v. Wade.
Opponents of this legislation are on the brink
of losing an eight-year battle over a proce-
dure the bill's sponsors call "partial birth
abortion." The legislation, however, does
more than criminalize this procedure, which
is performed after the first trimester of preg-
nancy; it could potentially put the health of
mothers at risk, as it penalizes doctors who
are looking out for the well-being of their
patients. This legislation is part of a larger
campaign to further prohibit women from
making their own child-bearing decisions.
The U.S. Senate has already passed
similar legislation, and President Bush has
promised to sign the legislation once it
moves through the House-Senate confer-
ence. Similar legislation was vetoed twice
during the Clinton administration and
defined as unconstitutional by the U.S.
Supreme Court less than three years ago.
So what has changed? Those sponsoring
the bill have grossly distorted the proce-
dure commonly known as partial-birth
abortion, emphasizing only details that
describe how gruesome the procedure can
be. Advocates of the legislation have also
coined the term "partial-birth," which is
not recognized by the medical community.
A major issue of disagreement sur-
rounding the legislation, which prevented
Clinton from signing it, is that while it

makes an exception for the life of mother,
it does not make an exception for the
health of the mother. There are foreseeable
circumstances in which there does not
exist an immediate threat to the life of the
mother, but there are potential health risks
to seeing the pregnancy to term.
In these situations, the legislation could
criminalize medical staff that terminate
the pregnancy while looking after the
health of the mother. There is nothing in
the legislation that protects doctors who
do not have the skills or the tools to use a
method other than dialation/extraction.
Plainly, the legislation leaves out protec-
tion for the practitioner in order to further
limit access to an abortion by intimidating
abortion clinics and medical professionals
from performing the procedure.
Most importantly, the decision is
unconstitutional, purging the right of
choice in regard to the woman's body and
her health. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(R-Florida), is noted for calling the proce-
dure "a grave attack against human dignity
and justice." This is highly debatable; how-
ever, limiting a woman's right to control
her own body could have grave, immediate
consequences to those unfortunate enough
to be faced with the choice between their
personal safety and the safety of the fetus.
This issue will undoubtedly find its
way back to the courtroom as opponents
of the legislation have promised to chal-
lenge its constitutionality in court. A like-
ly opening in the court in the near future
will bring public debate over the issue
back into the spotlight. It is important that
the public let its government know that at
the very least, some serious concerns
must be ironed out before this legislation
can be allowed to stand.

When former Gov. John Engler
mandated a state takeover of the
troubled Detroit school district
in 1999, the state passed legislation allow-
ing the school reform board to function
until 2004. Many Detroit residents and
state Democrats opposed the change,
which took control away from a popularly
elected school board and placed it in the
hands of appointed officials from Lansing.
Under the current law, Detroit Mayor
Kwame Kilpatrick appoints six of seven
board members, and the state superinten-
dent or his designee serves as the seventh
member, who has veto power over the
other board members' votes.
Even if the six mayoral appointees
were not tethered to a state watchman,
there is small chance that the board would
be making Detroit-centered decisions.
During its four-year existence, the school
reform board has been composed of auto-
motive executives and the mayor's politi-
cal pals, many of whom do not live in
Detroit and whose children do not attend
Detroit public schools. Though the state
took over the board as a result of rampant
corruption and failure to improve the dis-
trict, many Detroit residents lack faith in
and feel detached from the board.
Control over the school district should
be returned to Detroiters as soon as possi-
ble, as city residents have the right to vote
for the officials who are supposed to rep-
resent them. To that end, state Sen. Martha
Scott (D-Highland Park) introduced
Senate Bill 157. The bill would have
allowed Detroit to vote this August on
whether to return to an elected school
board, rather than in November of 2004.
The bill, which passed with the majori-
ty of Republicans in the Legislature on

board, met an unexpected death on the gov-
ernor's desk last week. Gov. Jennifer
Granholm said repeatedly during last year's
campaign that she supported returning to
an elected school board in Detroit, so her
stance on the bill surprised and frustrated
many who supported it. A spokesperson
for the governor listed cost and concerns
about voter turnout as the primary reasons
for not supporting the legislation.
The cost of holding a special election
this August is estimated at $1.3 million.
The state is indeed benefiting from
Granholm's budget-conscious policies, but
that stern balance-the-books quality should
be tempered with an examination of all the
factors involved. Giving Detroiters an
opportunity to vote earlier would have
been more than a gesture of goodwill; it
would have given the city a voice and a
chance to make changes a year in advance.
Some critics of an August vote argue
that Detroiters would be reluctant to vote
to change the status quo, so that an early
election would be irrelevant. It is true that
Detroit may vote to keep the current
board. It is important to point out, howev-
er, that educated guesses about election
results cannot serve as a substitute for
Detroit's own voice in an election.
Many Detroiters have lost faith in their
state government as a result of policies
that seem to be motivated as much by
antagonism toward Detroit as legitimate
concern for its well-being. Tlese types of
policies divide the state by region, class
and race. For this reason, it is unfortunate
that Granholm, whose "One Michigan
Campaign" in the 2002 election was
intended to ameliorate these concerns,
chose to simplify the issue and silence
Detroit for another year.

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