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Submitted 11:36 a.m. EDT
Letter to the Editor

Every state seems to have [a penal system] that is the worst in the country.”

Jeff Blanchard of Brewster, MA

I was grateful to learn that Rikers is now being run by Joe Ponte, but I think your readers might benefit from a fuller picture of his background, if only to gain a better understanding of the penal system nationwide.

Every state seems to have one that is the worst in the country. In Massachusetts, that place was called Walpole when Ponte worked there and earned the published nickname “Caligula of Corrections.” The place was later renamed Cedar Junction and run with federal oversight, by which time Ponte had moved to a top role at Bridgewater, the subject of Titicut Follies, and 20 minutes from his native New Bedford, MA, where his brother Ken Ponte was a lawyer and a suspect in the 1988 New Bedford Highway Murders, now dead. From there Ponte hooked up with the feds at the Donald Wyatt Federal (US Marshals) Detention Center in Rhode Island, built by Wall Street and run by a corporation, until he left for a top job in the Northwest, then a top job in the South, then a top job in Southern Nevada, then the job in Maine referenced in the story. Long before he was called a reformer, (by the way, who called him a reformer?) he was the subject of so many lawsuits and disciplinary actions that the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for its series on conditions at Walpole, a lengthy exploration of the kind of sadistic behavior that is emblematic of our prison system nationally.

Jeff Blanchard

This letter written in response to