Youths' offense: improper English

April 19, 1991|By McClatchy News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Juvenile offenders overseen by the California Youth Authority who exercise their right to file a complaint with the director will get it returned in the future unless the writing conforms to the rules of English grammar and spelling.

"I hope the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] sues me for depriving these people of their right to be ignorant," said B. T. Collins, who took charge of the state agency six weeks ago.

The complaints must "be in English," Mr. Collins said Wednesday. "We have ESL [English as a second language] classes all the time. It's a good way to practice your English."

In an April 11 memo to agency managers, Mr. Collins said that rejected complaint letters were being returned to wards with a letter of his own inviting the ward to try again.

"You're going to be judged in this country, like it or not, on how you write and speak," Mr. Collins said.

The wards, who range in age from late teens to 25, have the average reading ability of a third-grader, he said.

The Prisoners Rights Union filed a complaint yesterday with the state Office of Administrative Law, which approves new regulations. "This underground regulation is an open invitation to administrators to disallow grievances in a totally lawless manner," said the Rev. Paul Comiskey, legal counsel for the prisoners union.

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