Public at risk in corrections policiesI feel compelled to...

the Forum

April 19, 1993

Public at risk in corrections policies

I feel compelled to write in reference to the March 23 escape of Randy Eugene McBee from the Eastern Pre-Release Unit, near Church Hill. The way in which this escape was handled by the authorities leaves much to be desired.

Apparently, McBee has been practicing crime since the early 1970s, with former convictions for grand larceny, armed robbery and rape. It is also interesting to note that he had previously escaped from at least two other institutions prior to this. So how can it be that he was assigned to this facility in the first place?

I have several points of discontent with the way that this fiasco was handled. However, the overriding issue has to be the inability or unwillingness of the authorities to notify the public, within a reasonable amount of time, of the danger present.

We are supposed to be living in the technological age of telecommunications and fax machines, so why wasn't McBee's photo available for immediate publication in the newspapers and if it was available, why wasn't it used? Articles about the escape and the new round of crimes being committed by McBee appeared in newspapers March 26 and 27, but still without photos four days after the escape.

Would it have been so difficult for the authorities to have alerted the community of the situation by putting out bulletins over radio and television? To the best of my knowledge, McBee's picture never hit the TV screen until March 26, three days after his leaving the facility, and the same day in which he terrorized three more innocent members of the community and stole a car. Had the families that were victims of Mr. McBee been informed, it is possible that they would have never been victimized.

It is an outrage that this criminal was allowed to commit a half dozen or more very serious crimes while loose for three days among an uninformed populace, within approximately five miles of the facility.

By withholding information, were the authorities trying to avoid a panic by the law-abiding citizens? Were they afraid that we might do something irrational, like try to offer assistance in capturing this criminal or protect ourselves from possible violence? To me, this clearly demonstrates just how little the state cares about its citizens.

Perhaps they were only trying to cover up the fact that the penal system is a joke and that the police are incapable of protecting us.

Gerald F. Chance

Galena

Federal pay

You have printed a couple of reactions to the letter about ''Whining federal employees'' (Forum March 24), but they did not address some popular misconceptions about federal pay.

One is that federal employees get cost-of-living increases. They do not. A recommendation is made every year based on a study of pay in the private sector, not on the cost-of-living index. The actual adjustment made is often less than enough for parity.

Another misconception is that there are ''almost automatic merit raises.'' Quality step increases, as the real merit raises are called, are rare indeed. The almost automatic increases, which are not merit raises but can be denied because of unsatisfactory performance, are longevity increases. One does not start out at the full salary for one's grade, but gradually moves up to it through a series of longevity increases.

Lemuel A. Hall

Jessup

$8 million man

I read with interest about the new president of IBM. How can a man accept $8 million yearly if he knows how many people he puts out of work?

Maybe IBM could have found a leader with character and conscience.

Gabriella Schaerf

Baltimore

Drug greed

Everyone is concerned about the cost of health care. One of the major problems is the pharmaceutical industry.

Here is just one example. In 1971, I had to start taking a drug that cost $8 for 100 tablets. Today, that same 100 tablets -- with no new research and development for this particular drug -- now costs $78.05.

There is no way that the drug companies can say that this medicine is costing them so much more to make and distribute. If it is, maybe they should be looking at the way their companies are being administered.

There are many people who need medicine and they cannot afford to get the prescriptions; they have to do without, all because the drug companies charge unreasonable prices. This is just one of the causes of the health care mess the country is in today -- greed of the companies that control this industry.

E. J. Kearney

Baltimore

Secret cabal

The United States currently has an unknown group run by non-elected people redesigning 14 percent of the economy of this country -- that is, health care.

Their meetings are held in secret. What do you call this process? The word "democracy" does not come to mind.

Larry Johnston

Hereford

Gay memories

All the fuss about gays in the military brings back memories of my basic army training in 1954.

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