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.

It's just time that people's eyes were opened to the fact that good moms can lose their kids! Thank you for listening, and thank you for your article. My heart goes out to this woman and all the noncustodial moms in the world. And a message to the moms that do have their kids: Be careful, because you don't know when your marriage will end, and your ex can and will do this to you.

Connie Morrison

Littleton, Colorado

Acceptable Angles

Your unschooling article was very good ["School's Out Forever," by Lauren Kern, April 20], though I get the distinct impression you side with the public school establishment. That's fine. It's good to read well-written arguments for either side.

John Andersen

Portland, Oregon

Homestead Blues

I was both relieved and excited to see your article April 6 ["Officials Probe Refund Collector," by Tim Fleck]. Relieved because I am not the only gullible victim, and excited because someone is doing something to protect consumers from similar fraudulent acts. Maybe there is justice after all.

I received a mail solicitation in 1994 from Property Tax Refund Service Inc. of Sugar Land, along with a contract stating that if they could lower my property tax, they would be entitled to half of the refunds. Assuming they would represent me at the appraisal court to lower my property appraisal value, I signed up. However, they only mailed me a few pages of printouts listing properties sold in my neighborhood (which showed my house was not overappraised) and a copy of the application for a homestead exemption. I realized then that I had forgotten to send in my exemption application, so I mailed it to the appraisal district myself.

I refused to share the refunds because they did not provide the stated service, so they sued. I offered the owner $100 for his reminder, but he claimed they had incurred $900 in attorney's fees.

An attorney friend represented me free of charge, but we were disappointed that the judge seemed to have made up his mind from the beginning and was really not interested in hearing our argument. I ended up paying a total of $1,500 to the company.

Your article reassures me that there are individuals and government officials out there who care about ordinary citizens and try to protect them from these scam artists. I salute you for that.

Tai-Li Keng


To the Point

Thank you, Houston Press. Thanks for your reporting ["Farewell to a Killer," by Steve McVicker, May 4].

William Malloy


Railing On

I want to thank you for bringing up important issues with "Into the Gap," by Richard Connelly [April 13]. This issue lets parents know of the condition of the Enron Field railings.

However, I think parents are worrying too much about this matter. The city did the right thing by giving a temporary certificate of occupancy to Enron Field, because they are aware that this should be taken care of. Parents should be a little more understanding about this situation and know that accidents can happen at any time and in any place.

Sandra E. Gonzalez

League City

Richard Connelly's article was very disturbing. The city is either discriminating against handicapped fans or just doesn't care about the wide gaps in the railing on the upper deck.

I truly believe the city doesn't care. Dan Pruitt, a city inspection official, is clearly aware of this danger zone. Knowing this, he still released a temporary certificate of occupancy. Dan, how can you sleep at night? I know the decision was based on politics.

It's all about the money, baby. Enron Field was built to entertain corporate reps and their clients as well as the well-off people. I knew there was a reason I voted against the stupid stadium. My point: Fix the upper deck before a handicapped fan falls through the rails. Have some compassion.

Christina Marie Segovia


The Parent Trap

I liked your article "Tongue-tied" [by Margaret Downing, April 6] but find it absent of one major item: Where are the parents? You cannot expect the children to retain what is learned if there is no reinforcement at the home to speak English.

If a child is expected to learn English, then so should the parents. Having two children myself, I find that the time we spend with them each day on reading and spelling homework does make a difference. It also demonstrates that we are committed to their education as much as they are required to commit, and they see that. If Spanish-speaking children do not have the same support at home while learning English, it is unreasonable to expect anything from any teacher or school system.

The father of the boy in the article was born in the United States. There is no excuse for his inability to speak and read English at an elementary-school level at least by now. It sounds like Carlos is expected to do what his parents chose not to do.

Name withheld by request


A Woman for All Ages

I was amazed to see the articles on Catherine Mehaffey Shelton ["Line of Defense," by Eric Celeste, April 13; "Love Hurts," by Rose Farley and George Flynn, January 13]. I went to high school with Cathy (St. Agnes Academy, class of 1961).

I have not seen her for years, but I had heard (circa 1982) from a classmate that Cathy had gone to law school and that she had shot someone. I am also an attorney, so I was amazed that Cathy was having such problems. I am also amazed that with her conviction she did not lose her law license.

My only comment is about her age -- the January 13 article incorrectly refers to Cathy as 51. Well, Cathy is at least 56 and probably 57. Our St. Agnes graduating class was small (approximately 116 girls), so we all knew each other. Cathy was smart and was considered studious, but there was no indication then that she would end up in her present situation. Thanks for the interesting reporting.

Sharon Steele Doyle


The King's No Boss

Bruce Springsteen is far more talented than Elvis ever was ["St. Boss," by Anthony Mariani, April 13]. The latter dreamed about having even half the voice of the Boss! I do not think that Bruce's style has anything to do with a marketing strategy. Bruce is simply being Bruce.

Elvis, on the other hand, was a wimp of a man who did only what Colonel Parker told him to do. This so-called karate expert hid in terror from his fans in Las Vegas because he thought they might hurt him. It is totally inappropriate to discuss the Boss and the banal Elvis in the same article. One should get on his knees and beg for forgiveness for committing this error.

Long live the Boss! May he reign forever.

David Thomson



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