Glen Burnie residents have to be wondering about County Executive Robert R. Neall's opposition to Col. Robert G. Morris III's recommendation to move a state-run boot camp for minor offenders to Fort Meade. After all, it wasn't very long ago that Mr. Neall wanted to build a 600-bed county jail in their area, despite their objections.
Can a boot camp for inmates nearing the end of their terms be any worse for Odenton than a full-fledged jail would have been for Glen Burnie?
There is a certain logic behind the executive's thinking, however. The New Ordnance Road site that he liked for the jail was in the middle of an industrial park. The section of Fort Meade earmarked for the boot camp sits across Route 175 from Seven Oaks, a huge community of expensive homes and the centerpiece of a plan to transform Odenton into a nicer place than it has been.
In short, Mr. Neall is following the old adage: Jails don't belong in residential neighborhoods.
We wonder, though, if it isn't time to rethink the popular philosophy that correctional facilities, shelters and other unwelcome institutions are best located out in the middle of nowhere or in some area so undesirable that no human being would ever want to go there.
Doesn't it stand to reason that these institutions would be better designed, better run and more progressive if located where people have a vested interest in what they look like and whether they work?
No one thinks about a jail that sits in a field miles from civilization; it's out of sight, out of mind. Build a boot camp in an industrial belt, and will anyone care if it deteriorates into a dump? We doubt it.
Community reaction against maximum-security penitentiaries is understandable (though some jurisdictions are finding even they can be built to safely blend in with the landscape). But it makes no sense to argue, as many do, that isolation is best for even low-security facilities such as this boot camp, designed for first- or second-time non-violent offenders. If the purpose of a boot camp is to wean inmates back into society, then the camp should be a part of society.
It also makes sense for community members to take an interest in people who will soon be out among them, rather than simply closing their eyes and wishing they would go away.