Trouble with Tipton

December 02, 1993

Just after winning a battle to keep the state from putting a boot camp for minimum-security inmates on Fort Meade, residents in western Anne Arundel are all worked up again. Gov. William Donald Schaefer has asked President Clinton, no less, to help him move the boot camp to a different section of the post -- Tipton Army Airfield.

Who knows what the Clinton administration will do, but considering that Governor Schaefer deserted his own party to support George Bush in last year's presidential election, he can't rank too high on the favors list.

Nonetheless, residents are taking no chances. Once again, they and their elected representatives are arming themselves with the central objection that a boot camp at Tipton would be too close to homes and too dangerous.

There are good reasons why Tipton is not the best place for a boot camp, but the residents' logic is badly flawed. The fact is, inmates from the boot camp (now located in Jessup) are out among us every day. They're the guys in blue uniforms you see picking up trash along Ritchie Highway. They help at Bea Gaddy's Thanksgiving feast. They work in the State House, for heaven's sake.

We are not talking about murderers and child abusers in these boot camps. These are non-violent offenders who are being weaned back into society prior to release with heavy doses of discipline and hard work. As far as we can determine, no one from the camp has ever caused a problem while working in the community.

Any type of correctional facility always provokes fear. But residents need to be rational. This boot camp is not the State Penitentiary.

Opponents do have two strong arguments against the Tipton site. The first is that western Anne Arundel already bears the brunt of the state's corrections needs. Putting the camp on a military post makes sense in many ways, but it's not unreasonable for Arundel residents to ask other regions to share the burden.

The second is that no one knows what's buried at Tipton. The airfield was built over a capped landfill, and the extent of hazardous wastes beneath the site remains unknown. So does the amount of buried unexploded ordnance; hand grenades, mortars and anti-tank rockets already have been removed and detonated.

Tipton probably is not a safe place for a boot camp -- albeit for reasons different than the ones nearby residents have been citing.

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