Homeless and homosexuals
I appreciate City Director Erma Hendrix making her hateful comparison that homosexuals = criminals = homeless people, because it prompted me to speak out in favor of using the old Job Corps building as the Homeless Resource Center. I live downtown not far from the building. I am not afraid of the homeless, many of whom are good people who have fallen on hard times due to physical or mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse and myriad other reasons. It really isn't our place in a civilized society to judge these people but to help them. I think this building is well suited to provide a center that could do that. It is the humane and compassionate thing to do. The neighbors' fears that they will be accosted by the homeless are totally unfounded, based in ignorance and fueled by hate speech.
Being a homosexual myself I must say that Ms. Hendrix's comment was most inappropriate for a city director. She has slandered the gay community and the homeless community. She owes an apology to both groups. It will be a test of her character to see if she has the courage to admit that she was in the wrong. Little Rock really is not well served by “leaders” who willfully insult entire categories of its citizens and practice fear mongering, telling neighbors that the bogey man, homosexuals and criminals in this case, is prowling the streets.
Women in prison
A New York Times editorial recently urged the governor of New York to support legislation to ban shackling and use of restraints on pregnant, incarcerated women during childbirth. A wave of other states and the Bureau of Prisons have revised their practices to stop the use of restraints during childbirth. In Arkansas, however, we have legislators who only listen to rumors and comments by our Correction Department officials who do not want monitoring, much less a ban on their use of restraints. A legislator in the Senate committee hearing a bill amended to meet Correction Department objections, asked Correction Department Director Larry Norris if it was true that women in prison giving birth attempt to kill their babies, therefore the need for restraints. What an astounding question to be asked! Where on earth did that rumor come from? And the person asking must have suspended common sense to really legitimately wonder if this was the reason for shackling? Talk about demonization of the incarcerated.
Monitoring and legislative oversight have been missing in the era of increased incarceration. If we do not take more responsibility and oversight of our correctional system, we will all be blemished by the horrors. Do we not want some simple accounting and data collection concerning infants born while their mothers are in our custody? Do we not think this information would be useful in insuring these babies are not jeopardized with greater risks other than babies? Let there be justice and compassion in childbirth for all.
Dee Ann Newell, M.A.
National Policy Partnership for Children of Incarcerated Parents
Justice for all
We are a nation built upon the concept of equal justice for all. We pledge allegiance to our flag “with liberty and justice for all.” We have embraced “equal justice under law” as a national ideal.
But the poor often cannot afford to hire a lawyer when they have a pressing civil legal problem. And with the current recession, more Arkansans will turn to legal aid programs because they have no place else to go for help.
These low-income Arkansans are women seeking protection from abuse, families facing evictions or foreclosures that could leave them homeless, and individuals who have lost their jobs and need help applying for unemployment compensation and other benefits.
Thirty-five years ago, Congress created the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to promote equal access to justice and to fund nonprofit programs that provide high-quality civil legal assistance to the nation's poor. LSC provides federal funds to 137 independent nonprofit organizations across the nation, including the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas. This funding makes up 70 percent of their budgets. Furthermore, this funding allowed the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas to help more than 11,500 low-income Arkansans last year.
But federal funds alone cannot keep up with the growing requests for help.
The majority of poor Arkansans do not have access to justice. We must continue to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to the poor. So as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, please join the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission as we work to make the promise of equal justice a reality for all Arkansans.
If you know a low-income Arkansan who needs free legal aid, please tell them to contact one of our legal service providers at 1-800-9-LAW AID (1-800-952-9243) or visit their website at www.arlegalservices.org.
Charles W. Goldner Jr.
Chair, Arkansas Access
to Justice Commission