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Letters to the Editor

Supporting A Smoking Ban

I grew up in New Orleans and worked in the restaurant industry. I never smoked a cigarette, but suffered a cough -- which I associated with cigarette smoking ("Butt Out," May 6). Does anyone consider the price paid by the bar and restaurant workers forced to breathe air from smokers' lungs? Smokers are unhealthy to begin with, so why would anyone want to breathe air that comes out of someone else's lungs? Gross.

Business owners in New Orleans need to wake up. How many families skip going out because they don't want their kids exposed to cancer? Get a clue, and check out what happened in California where smoking is banned. Restaurants and bars found that their business increased after the ban. Wake up and smell the food unflavored by the odor of stale cigarettes.

--Dane Lobb
Capitola, California

Physical Therapy Access

Gambit Weekly
's focus on health care issues is timely and important, as Louisiana has the worst overall health in the nation and our Legislature is considering vital health care legislation right now.

Louisianians lack direct access to physical therapy. That needs to change. I am writing in particular about House Bill 1070 and Senate Bill 793. Easter Seals of Louisiana, the Louisiana Geriatric Society and the Louisiana Physical Therapy Association support these bills. Physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists and other health care providers and patient advocates have endorsed this movement.

Direct access to physical therapy is a proven, established method of providing care. The citizens of 35 other states have benefited from such access. Louisiana, as is so often the case, is one of the only states left without such a provision.

Malpractice claims in other states introducing direct access have not increased. Additionally, such access helps control increasing medical costs and would be good for the public. Physical therapy promotes preventative health care. In some parts of the state, espeically rural settings, physical therapists are more accessible than medical clinics.

Please support this effort to change Louisiana law and allow patients direct access to physical therapy.

--David Qualls
Physical Therapist
President, Louisiana Physical Therapy Association

Judging Juvenile Justice

The current framework in Louisiana loosely referred to as the juvenile justice system is in dire need of repair and reform. The Juvenile Justice Commission was created by legislative act at the urging of Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. of the Louisiana Supreme Court and has performed its duties on behalf of the judicial, executive and legislative branches of our state government. Its membership is as diverse geographically, ideologically and politically as our great state.

After 18 months of extensive research, including public hearings and visits to other states, experts in juvenile justice, business leaders and a 43-member advisory board have all concluded: Louisiana over-incarcerates juveniles, and a more balanced system of sanctions in needed. There is a lack of adequate communication, coordination and collaboration among agencies within the system. There is very little planning, monitoring or evaluation of programs; programs that have proven themselves in other places aren't used here. Service delivery is overly centralized and bureaucratic.

We need greater local funding and involvement in juvenile justice. We should place more emphasis on community-based programs that have been shown, in other states, to return offenders to law-abiding lives.

There are serious service deficits throughout the system -- particularly in mental health, substance abuse treatment, family strengthening programs, alternative sanctions, services for foster care, prevention and early intervention. The state needs to build a comprehensive continuum of care for children and families.

Representation and defense services in juvenile cases are critically deficient in many areas of the state. Few attorneys are interested in juvenile cases. Those who will take juvenile cases are often poorly trained, and available attorneys are swamped with work.

While all of our recommendations are important, two specific recommendations are the foundation upon which all of the others rest. They embody a totally different philosophy and approach and are a clear break from our past practices.

The first is to break down the bureaucratic walls of state agencies and create a new, well-organized, coordinated and streamlined agency whose sole mission is to reform the juvenile justice system. The second is to shut down one of Louisiana's high-security juvenile detention facilities and move to a system of prevention, early intervention and alternative sanctions as recommended by juvenile justice experts.

We recognize that reform will take years to fully implement but believe we must aggressively begin this process of change. Louisiana is burdened with a broken system that costs too much, does not work and does not protect the public. The people of Louisiana have waited long enough. The time for study is over. We should seize the moment and act now.

--State Rep. Mitch Landrieu
Chairman, Juvenile Justice Commission

Everyone's a Critic

Last summer when Shala Carlson favorably reviewed MIB2, I thought, "She's crazy." Who could favorably review such an awful sequel?!?? Recently, she panned the sequel to X-Men. Fine. She didn't like the first one; why would she reasonably like the second one? But then she awards the much-anticipated sequel to The Matrix an "A." What!?!! Gambit Weekly, you have an imposter in your midst in the guise of someone who thinks they know what cinematic execution is and should be. Anyone with a track record like this needs to be reevaluated in their ability. Something tells me Shala likes to see the pretty lights flash on screen and nothing more. Anything resembling a remotely decent or otherwise cohesive (in these cases, science fiction) story does not seem to generate merit. At the very least, an "A" to Reloaded -- beyond being laugh-out-loud funny -- suggests narrow surface with zero depth.

--Jean-Paul Villere

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