Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor
Photo by duncan c via Flickr Creative Commons

Book Forthcoming from Boston Woodard

I have been a contributing writer for the Community Alliance for about six years now. Editor Mike Rhodes put his faith and trust in me to contribute honest accounts of what goes on behind the prison walls. This rare opportunity to get our (prisoners’) perspective and observations out there is what freedom of speech under the First Amendment is all about. I’ve written dozens of articles in an attempt to give the public a true glimpse of some of the events, conditions and circumstances that occur every day, probably in every prison, within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

What makes what I’m doing important to me are the responses my articles generate from fellow prisoners like Michael Haynes in Avenal State Prison. Michael explained how important the Community Alliance is to him in a letter to Editor Mike Rhodes. He also wrote that I write the “truth” about the prison system and that he has “either witnessed or experienced” many of the circumstances I talk about in my articles. I appreciate Michael Haynes’ good words, which help strengthen my resolve to continue what I’m doing.

I am in the process of having a book published (soon) with the help of editor Mike Rhodes, copyeditor Michael Evans and publisher Jon Sievert. The many chapters in my book explicate many aspects of prison life forthrightly and unambiguously. I want people to know what really goes on inside the CDCR from a prisoner’s point of view. Occurrences that mainstream media never reveal to the public and things that prison officials keep secret. Hopefully, my book will give folks a better understanding of why things are not as they seem to be when it comes to the California prison system and maybe how things can improve by knowing the whole story. I’ve read a lot of positive feedback from a lot of people who I thank for their faith and understanding.

Boston Woodard



Roeding Park All Stars

How ironic it is that the mayor of Fresno, Ashley Swearengin, has been on public television (mainstream media) telling the public not to give a homeless person even a dollar on the corner, but instead to give your dollars to her (the City of Fresno), so they can continue to do the same things that they have been doing for so long, which is close to absolutely nothing, except to continue giving the service providers, and a few developers, a paycheck.

On the other hand, the Community Alliance newspaper, at no cost to anyone, has provided the homeless community an opportunity to do what Mayor Ashley Swearengin and the City of Fresno (City Hall) said could not be done. Which is accept a helping hand from the more fortunate people of Fresno.

Also, because of several acres of land donated to us by a generous citizen of Fresno to use at no cost to us, we now have one of the largest, if not the largest, community gardens in Fresno. All of this is managed and controlled by homeless people, and all the work is done by homeless people.

We, the Park Side Crew, now known as the Roeding Park All Stars, encourage you, the citizens of Fresno, to continue to donate landscape equipment such as lawnmowers, weed eaters, garden tools, garden seeds and plants, or if you do not have such items, we do accept cash donations to help with the overhead costs (e.g., water bill, gas bill for equipment, new equipment).

Help us make a difference. Help us get-er-done. As you can see, with a little help from you, we are climbing out of the gutter, and into a better life. The Roeding Park All Stars are living proof of a job well done. For information, or to make donations to the project, please contact Al Williams at 559-647-7165 or alphonsowill62@yahoo.com.

Al Williams


Feed-in Tariffs an Obvious Solution

When I wrote my Christmas letter this year, I mentioned that the Tulare Greens were supporting Feed-in Tariffs (FITs). My cousin wrote back to me saying that she thought it had to do with feeding the needy. Then she checked out the Web site (www.wind-works.org) and found it was something very different—feeding electricity into the grid.

Under a feed-in tariff arrangement, electricity generated by a solar panel on your rooftop is sold to the electric company for a fair price—one that allows you to earn a profit. On a larger scale, community-owned solar and wind farms could be paid a fair price for the electricity they produced.

Indeed, this is what our new governor has in mind, “California can aggressively develop renewables at all levels: small, onsite residential and business systems; intermediate-sized energy systems close to existing consumer loads and transmission lines; and large scale wind, solar and geothermal energy systems.”

It seems we need to fasten our seatbelts for another bumpy ride as oil and food prices again rise. Feed-in tariffs are an obvious solution to reducing our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and increasing our energy security by generating electricity—right where we need to, in our homes and our communities.

Merrily Davies


Holding Christians Accountable

Consider this a rant to many people who will never read it. It has to do with our letting organized religion off the hook when it comes to such things as divestment in war-torn parts of the world and the lack of interest on the part of organized religion around issues of the environment. It has to do with organized religion’s lack of interest in the teaching of real science in the schools and or the lack of interest in bringing the religious communities into the 21st century around such things as abortion (as a matter of choice) and the gays in our midst. Those of us who consider ourselves “Christian” have to be held accountable!

As I look around me at places where community activism is taking place, I notice a small number of people who we call “religious” (and here I am pretty much speaking to my fellow Christians—followers of the prophet Jesus).

When I show up and get into conversations about the lack of interest on the part of organized religious people, I always bring up an uncomfortable subject. (Now let me make clear I hold a master’s degree in divinity and have additional years of religious study, so I am not talking about people who I don’t personally know or about experiences of which I am not knowledgeable.) The primary reason that Christian religious people are not “showing up” is that at core within Christian theory there is the held belief that if things just get worse Jesus will come and fix it all in the end time.

So why should I as a Christian come and protest things getting worse? After all, at the core, that is what I want to believe should happen. Anyway, I told you that it is an uncomfortable subject. Yes, we all know about the “dispensational” who believe that from the beginning, but that is also true within the charismatic (and Pentecostal) communities. And don’t kid yourselves, it is strongly held in mainline Christian thought also. Even if Presbyterians and Lutherans and Mennonites and Baptists don’t want to talk about it very much, it is there.

I am always pleased when “peace church people” show up at community events that deal with peace and social justice issues. I know that means that some of us have gotten past that core thought process that I am talking about here. I just wish for more. I live in the 21st century; magic has no place in my religious belief structure.

Jim Compton-Schmidt


Prison Issues

Is there any way possible you can be supportive of two bills—SB 1399 (medical parole) and SB 1223 (the sentence of a person who was convicted as a minor)? It should be mandatory for correctional officers to be screened thoroughly and drug tested. Taxpayers are paying good money for no correction being enforced.

Rehabilitation should be mandatory. Inmates are allowed to pick and choose any psych-meds they want to fulfill their drug habits. They buy and trade medication. This place is being run like a mental hospital with false 115 reports. Kids are being denied their education while CCWF [Central California Women’s Facility] and VSPW [Valley State Prison for Women] are being run very poorly with no legal supervision. Nothing is legally supervised.

Taxpayers are paying for false convictions and false imprisonment. Please let me know what you can and can’t do to help.

Lisa Cage


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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