A Lesson to Be Learned

Other than various media updates, I would say I'm naive about prison life life. Your article as experienced by Ricardo Lara enlightened me so much ["Ready or Not," compiled by Randall Patterson, April 27].

As a concerned citizen, I would like to encourage our state government to do something regarding the availability of educational programs in our prison systems. It would seem to me that our penal system would know that illiteracy plays a big part in criminal behavior. I don't necessarily want to see anyone get paroled too soon, but when they do get paroled, I'd like them to be smart enough to get a job and not have to depend on street life again.

Jo Ann Holloway


My heart goes out to poor Ricardo. He tells a story of a poor person in prison mistreated and abused. It seems poor Ricardo doesn't realize the people in prison with him are criminals just like himself! Exactly what is poor Ricardo expecting?

Poor Ricardo is getting a five-page chance in the Houston Press to tell his story. I wonder how many pages does his victim get to tell his story -- maybe to tell a story about a family, kids or football games, or just what he did over the weekend.

Poor Ricardo talks about the terror in prison: violence, rape, killings. What about the terror his victim felt when he stabbed him?

Poor Ricardo, he will have to take life one day at a time. I'm sure his victim would have liked to have the same privilege.

Samuel Baal


I'd be willing to bet that Mr. Lara will be back in prison very soon, like one very bad character. I enjoyed your report, but it is a sad comment on a wasted life.

Name withheld by request


Mom's the Word

A little over six years ago my ex-husband and I split up ["Absent a Mother," by Brian Wallstin, April 20]. We were in California at the time; he took off to Missouri. He never called the girls, or sent money -- nothing! Shortly after that, my significant other and I decided to move to Littleton, Colorado. I sent my girls to Texas to my parents' home for six months while I got settled. They loved my parents, and my mom had watched them a lot while I worked two jobs to support them as their father ran around.

When I went to get them and bring them home to Colorado, my ex (and his new wife) slammed me with a restraining order. We ended up in court. He had been very abusive, verbally and physically, during the marriage. During a "private" talk, he managed to threaten and intimidate me into signing over custody, except for school vacations and Christmas.

Needless to say, it's been rough, but my daughters are now teenagers and don't want to move in with me and leave their friends.

But it's time the world knew that we noncustodial moms do exist, and we don't lose our children because of abuse. We lose them to biased judges, or money-hungry attorneys, and sometimes we willingly hand over custody because the other parent can provide a better home. Or because it's what the children want. After all, isn't our children's happiness really what parenting is all about?

But people look at us and treat us like we did something to that child. They have no clue about the emotional pain we feel over not having our children, the children we carried for nine months and gave birth to. The children we love more than anything on God's green earth. They don't know the financial hardships we suffer, because the courts take a huge portion of our money for child support.

In my case, my child support isn't used for my kids, it's used for his new truck payment. I struggle with barely enough to pay rent and child support and maybe eat a lot of macaroni and cheese. I live with constant e-mails that I need to pay his bounced check fees when the mail is late in delivering child support. And that I need to pay his attorney fees for when I tried to sue for custody last year and my kids decided they wanted to stay in Missouri and finish high school. I live in constant fear of my child support being raised and that I'll end up living on the streets.

Basically we live the same life as fathers who don't have their kids. It's not a gender thing, it's an unfair judicial system that doesn't allow the noncustodial parent to live a decent life. My ex is remarried, owns a home and two new trucks, and vacations all the time.

All the while he has my girls calling and asking for money for this or money for that (clothes, etc. -- things that child support is for). Yes, I send it, because I love my kids and because if I don't, he threatens to take me to court over and over and over again. The cycle never ends.

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