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PROBE: May 29, 2001

May 29, 2001

QUESTION (more or less): I am writing to you from Imperial County jail waiting to be sent to prison. I don't know what the future holds for me and the other young men who will spend much of their lives behind bars.

I can only pray there is a light at the end of this long, dark, slippery tunnel. America has reason to be concerned about its youth.

The term youthful offender has become part of our daily language. The courts are deciding the circumstances in which youths may be prosecuted as adults.

Thousands of young Americans have fallen prey to drugs — marijuana, crack and powder cocaine and heroin. With addiction comes the need to turn to crime to support their habits.

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Our high schools have turned to war zones. The dropout rate is enormous. Youth seeks instant gratification. Traditional values are gone in favor of cohabitation. Casual sex results in serious physical and emotional problems.

This generation has been called the "me" generation. In times of plenty it has chosen to pursue its own selfish goals. —Inmate, county jail

There is a light at the end of the tunnel but it's up to you to turn on the switch!

You're seeing the world in such dismal turns because you've been living in a neighborhood of despair. Not everybody lives there.

From our vantage point, the world is not getting worse; it's getting better. Not all young people get drunk or stoned on drugs or steal their neighbor's TV set to buy crack cocaine.

Most go to school regularly, earn diplomas and go to college. We believe schools are better than ever.

While you are sitting in your cell, consider that you can't do much about other people messing up their lives. The only person you can change is you.

If you believe drugs, trash television and casual sex will drag you down, develop better habits.

You write well. Educate yourself. We don't know how long you will be in prison but you can get a high school diploma or a college degree in four years.

QUESTION: The Anne Frank story was on television recently. I believe the original was "The Diary of Anne Frank." Do you remember who wrote it? — TV viewer, Imperial County

When we got your letter, we thought you were kidding. In case you were not: Anne Frank, 13, wrote her diary while she and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II.

QUESTION: I work for a company where the boss makes many nasty comments about "dirty" or "stupid" or "lazy" or "bleeping" Mexicans. He even makes such remarks on the company radio.

Since I am Hispanic, this saps my morale …. What can I do? — Hardworking, El Centro

Take your tape recorder to work and tape his more offensive remarks. File a complaint with the state Labor Commission and the Fair Employment and Housing Department.

Then quietly look for another job. Good help is still hard to find. A boss so insensitive to the feelings of his employees may soon find himself short of workers!

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