Eric Pianin's article Jan. 18 {Metro} was insightful. It listed many of the limitations that come with any prison site in the District. The article, however, missed the point.

Although each of the sites has its pros and cons, the limitations pale in relation to those at the Capitol Hill site. These were not addressed in the article. Besides the archeological and historical significance of the site, it is important to note that access to it is through a residential community. A prison there would mean increases in noise, traffic, parking problems, pollution, trash and security risks.

The site at the National Arboretum is near a residential community as well, but access to the site is not through a neighborhood. Barriers could be constructed to eliminate security concerns. Despite the small flood zone at this site, the D.C. Office of Planning has reported that there is still more acreage to build upon there than at the Capitol Hill site.

The South Capitol Street site is partially on a flood plain. But this would not necessarily have to prevent construction there. Consider the fact that the Washington Harbor development in Georgetown has been built on a 50-year flood plain.

And the Navy plans for a heliport and an intelligence station near Bolling Air Force Base could be changed. The heliport could be built at the Navy Yard or elsewhere. The site near the Air Force base probably has enough acreage to accommodate both a prison and some Navy facilities.

Building a prison within an urban area such as the District is a policy scorned by the Bureau of Prisons, the American Correctional Association and every prison expert one could find. And for good reason.

A prison for D.C. should be built at Lorton, 3,000 acres of District-owned property set aside by Congress specifically for prison construction. The congressional moratorium on expansion at that site is a clear violation of "home rule."

The Capitol Hill Prison Task Force, of which I am vice chairman, has spearheaded the fight against the current prison plan and would not support any site that would have a severe negative impact on any community. But if Congress mandates that a prison must be built within the boundaries of D.C., at least place it outside a residential community.

The alternative sites are not perfect, but as the article quoted me as saying, the stumbling blocks need not be fatal. And most important, building at one of the alternative sites would not destroy a community.

JAMIE PLATT

Washington