Moral EquivalentsnTCEditor: The changing attitude of the...


January 28, 1992

Moral Equivalents


Editor: The changing attitude of the Justice Department toward the plight of prisoners (as reported in The Sun, Jan. 15) is a disgrace. Overcrowding in prisons is a violation of the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. Part of society's rationale for incarcerating criminals is that the rule of law demands a moral consistency that is lacking among those imprisoned. How can the moral requirements of the law be reconciled with the moral expediency of inadequate prison space?

This dilemma is resolved, of course, by ignoring it. Society at large approves of prisons for all criminals because it assumes, correctly, that removing dangerous criminals from the public environment is effective. What the public fails to see is the connection between inhumane conditions and early-release programs due to overcrowdings.

The government builds more prisons, yet finds the number of incoming criminals growing at an even faster rate. Room is created for them by giving less-dangerous inmates early parole, but as the prison ranks swell the definition of "dangerous" keeps shifting to more marginal cases. Caps on prison populations will not slow this process, given our propensity for adding new numbers to the rolls.

Contrary to public opinion, we lock up plenty of dangerous criminals. We continue to suffer at their hands, however, because we are creating new ones through the war on drugs. By criminalizing the sale of recreational drugs in high demand, we are incarcerating a large number of non-criminals, pushing their more dangerous counterparts onto the streets and creating a gangster-class of truly vicious individuals.

The trouble with the wrecking ball of righteousness that society has dropped on drugs is that, like a pendulum, it swings both ways: first at the welfare of prisoners and then at the welfare of society.

William S. Spicer III. Woodbrook.

Abortion Trauma

Editor: I would like to commend Archbishop William Keeler and the Archdiocese of Baltimore for initiating the emotional and spiritual counseling service for women traumatized by abortion known as Project Rachel.

Since the trauma of abortion transcends all religious beliefs, it is particularly beneficent that, although the project is to begin as a Catholic project, it will welcome clients of any faith.

I would, however, like to challenge the statement of James A. Guest, president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, who upon announcement of this program, has stated publicly that ''there's simply no credible evidence that this syndrome exists.''

It appears that Mr. Guest has not read the document produced by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Department of Education covering the years 1990 through 1993.

It states that recent unpublished reports from the Alan Guttmacher Institute -- a research arm of Planned Parenthood -- indicate that the incidence of post-procedural trauma may be as high as 91 percent of all cases.

The PPFA report goes on to allege, without substantiation, that the trauma, the existence of which Mr. Guest denies, was caused by the pro-life movement.

The PPFA account further advises that ''This volatile political dilemma must be addressed forthrightly by local affiliates.''

It seems to me that before anything can addressed ''forthrightly'' one must stop denying its existence.

Charles R. Serio. Linthicum.

Hayden Travels

Editor: It's comforting to know that Roger Hayden was in Europe signing a ''sister county'' agreement while my asthmatic son attends his parochial school with no county nurse provided to look after him.

Parochial school parents save the county millions of dollars by paying tuition besides paying county taxes. Perhaps this Sept. 8, all private and parochial schools should close down and the parents register their children to attend the public schools.

Maybe Roger Hayden needs the picture painted more vividly.

Rosanne DiFonzo. Kingsville.

Commuter Taxes in the District

Editor: Your Jan. 14 article on Gov. William Donald Schaefer's desire to redistribute some local piggyback income tax to the jurisdiction in which it is earned reported that Louis L. Goldstein opposed the idea. Comptroller Goldstein fears that such a move would inspire Washington, D.C., government to enact a commuter tax on those working in the District.

The piggyback ''point of earnings'' idea deserves an examination on its own merits. Discussions with persons informed about the legislative process confirmed my hunch that such a tax would have to be enacted by Congress, following House of Representatives and Senate committee hearings. One of the committees to review the matter would be the House Ways and Means Committee of which U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin, D-3rd, is a member.

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