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Ins and outs of jail

How naive or uninformed does Stephen Harper think the electorate is? Prisons are educational institutions for the production of criminals (Jails Don't Keep People Out Of Jail – Jan. 5). I have been in prisons, teaching cooking to young male "offenders" (some were just mentally challenged, with no place else to go), women in Sackville, N.S., and at the Alternatives To Violence Project at Dorchester, N.B.

Mandatory minimum sentences for relatively minor crimes can turn a mistake into a lifetime career. The associations made in prison, where there are really expert criminals, provide support for that sort of life once the incarcerated get out. They will get out some day, worse than when they went in. By then, Mr. Harper's mandate probably will be over, and we will be the ones who have to deal with the consequences of Bill C-10.

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Sylvia Mangalam, Bedford, N.S.

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The views of the three parole and corrections experts ignore the wishes of the populace, as represented by this voter, to see some limit on the wanton leniency applied by our courts for far too long: We want to see criminals punished, before they are given the opportunity of "rehabilitation" – or reoffending upon release.

The authors argue that "Our collective experience and decades of research tell us that increased rates of incarceration neither decrease crime nor act as a deterrent to it." This suggests to us that the crooks have not been kept in jail long enough. After all, a crook can't reoffend while in jail.

M.R. Michaels, Burlington, Ont.

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To the excellent arguments of corrections experts, I add that the crime rate has been dropping for a long time, so we have a hat trick: a policy that is ill-informed, extremely expensive and entirely unnecessary.

Robert Goddard, Kingston, Ont.

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Pipeline politics

The federal government is already supporting the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal (Oil Giants Back Gateway Pipeline – Report on Business, Jan. 5). One has to question the legitimacy of a review process, which is intended to gather information on the proposal to inform decision-making, when the federal government appears to have already made up its mind. Any government opinion prior to completion of the review process suggests that the process is deeply flawed, and that the government has no intention of genuinely weighing the information that will come out of the review process.

Chris Joseph, Vancouver

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Poultry pride

Chicken Farmers of Ontario is committed to providing the highest quality chicken to consumers (Stop The Chicken Busts – Life, Jan. 4). We take exception to anyone who suggests otherwise; however, we do want to point out that flocks with fewer than 300 birds are entitled to operate outside of our regulated system of production.

CFO includes small and large farms, and organic producers. Our birds are raised in clean, well-ventilated, climate-controlled barns, where they can roam freely and are protected against the extremes of weather, predators and disease. Members participate in an On Farm Food Safety program, which is subject to strict audits.

Rather than eating "bugs, worms and blades of grass," our chickens are fed a healthy, balanced diet consisting primarily of grains and a protein-mineral supplement; they have access to clean water and nutritious feed 24 hours a day.

Murray Booy, chair, Chicken Farmers of Ontario

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Log on to the future

Log homes have a future, builders just need to learn to innovate (Home Of The Past? – front page, Jan. 5). To reconcile energy performance standards with log home construction, dozens of options come to mind: double-walled log construction with insulation in between; installing a geothermal heating system; employing passive-house design concepts with larger south-facing windows; building in ultra-high R-value roof insulation; using cutting edge sealing methods to tighten the building envelope; high-efficiency air-exchange units; heat-recovery systems; even hybrid log-walls with rammed earth are possible.

Those who embrace modern building science reap the competitive advantage of efficiency, which pays for itself through lower operating costs and higher asset value.

Peter Reinecke, Ottawa

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Cheering? :(

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At a time when Canadian corporations are sitting on billions in cash, when CEOs are earning 189 times the average worker's salary, and when the U.S. corporation Caterpillar is demanding a 50-per-cent cut in salaries and benefits at a locomotive plant in London, Ont., a U.S. business magazine has commended Canada for reforming its tax structure so we have the lowest corporate rate in the G7 (Why Canada's Corporate Tax Cuts Rate A Collective Cheer – Report on Business, Jan. 4). Canadians may be facing higher costs, more unemployment, and social service cuts, but there is ample solace knowing that Forbes magazine is happy we're a low-tax jurisdiction for the benefit of big business.

Larry Kazdan, Vancouver

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Classes, divided

Children attend private schools because their parents have the money to send them (Diverse ABCs – letters, Jan. 4). Rather than being bastions of "societal unity," I'd argue that private schools are a wedge between the haves and the have-nots – a class divide that is only growing wider in North America.

Heather MacAndrew, Victoria

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Malvinas dispute

We disagree with your position on the dispute between Argentina and the U.K. over the Malvinas Islands (Falklands Forever – editorial, Dec. 26). In 1833, the Malvinas were occupied by British forces. Argentina has protested that illegitimate and forceful act ever since.

The UN has recognized the existence of a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and Britain over the Malvinas Islands and called upon the parties to resume negotiations, even after the 1982 conflict. Britain continues to conduct unilateral activities in the disputed area, contrary to UN resolutions. Mercosur (Common Market of the South) and Unasur (Union of South American Nations) have expressed concern over those unilateral activities and urged the resumption of negotiations.

The recent declaration by Mercosur member and associate states, banning the use of their ports by illegitimately Malvinas-flagged vessels, was adopted in conformity with international law.

Gerardo Bompadre, Argentine Chargé d'Affaires in Canada

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Jumpsuit orange

Russell Smith notes that websites and lifestyle magazines tell us the colour of the year is a "shade of orange" (Feeling Blue? You're Out Of Step – Arts, Jan. 5). Was it coincidence that, in the adjacent article, Kevin O'Leary is pictured wearing an orange prison jumpsuit (O'Leary Offers Ex-Cons A Second Chance)? Who knew he was at the forefront of fashion? Yes, jumpsuit orange on my kitchen walls.

Phyllis Dinning, Cambridge, Ont.

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