Justice system needs more common senseStand aside for the...

the Forum

December 23, 1993

Justice system needs more common sense

Stand aside for the stampede as state delegates and would-be political candidates rush forth with a variety of proposals designed to deal with the crime issue and demonstrate their toughness.

Many of the solutions proposed as ways to curb crime will have a familiar and tired ring. In the past 25 years, very little new thinking has gone into what to do about crime. Perhaps the focus has been misdirected.

Much attention and money has been placed on the downstream part of the criminal justice system: What to do with offenders once they have been convicted?

The patchwork of solutions is by now familiar: Longer sentences, more prisons, alternative sentences for non-violent offenders, boot camps, better treatment programs and more frequent use of the death penalty.

Most of these solutions have been tried during the last 25 years; some have been around since the establishment of the modern prison system at the end of the 19th century.

None of these solutions has had much effect on crime, nor can we be confident that they or their new derivatives will in the future.

What is overlooked is that the connection between the crime committed and the punishment prescribed by law has been severed.

A shockingly small percentage of those ever arrested actually are convicted. And of those convicted, an even smaller percentage actually serve some time in jail or prison. Most end up out in the streets with the knowledge that the system can be beaten. The suckers end up doing time.

Only the naive few believe that they will actually end up serving a sentence, if they are arrested for a crime.

Police are hamstrung with inadequate resources and laws and rules which defy common sense. The result is that the probability of getting caught is not great.

For those arrested, an overcrowded and inefficient court system ensures that justice will be slow, not swift. The convicted face a corrections system which believes, as it has since the early part of the century, that criminality can be diagnosed and cured through rehabilitation, like a disease.

We have lost sight of the principal reason for our criminal justice system, that is to apprehend, convict and punish criminal offenders with sentences that are proportionate to the offense. The "system" has lost its credibility.

What this argues for is not necessarily longer sentences and more costly prisons. We already have the longest sentences and largest prison system in the western world.

Rather, more resources and money needs to be targeted to the front end of the criminal justice system so that the likelihood of getting arrested is great, the trial swift and the punishment certain.

This means more police, more court facilities and judges, and changing laws to restore common sense to our criminal justice system.

Oz Bengur

Towson

Laurel Redskins

Jack Kent Cooke may be eccentric, but he is not the reason Baltimore did not get a National Football League team. Mr. Cooke did no more to prevent Baltimore from getting a football team than the Orioles did to stop Washington from getting a baseball team.

Football enthusiasts should be aware that Mr. Cooke is a dream owner, a man dedicated more to winning than to the bottom line.

In spite of having the league's smallest stadium and therefore operating at a loss, the Redskins have always spent the money necessary to consistently field a winner (this season notwithstanding).

Would you really rather put up with the meddlesome Al Davis, who ran his star running back, Marcus Allen, out of Los Angeles? Or Georgia Frontierre, who has shown neither the ability nor the desire to field a winning team? Or Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals, who makes Eli Jacobs look like a big spender?

Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his group put together an unbeatable package for the NFL owners. That the package was refused only proves that the expansion process was a fraud.

But the goal was to bring football fans of Maryland a team they could call their own. By working with Mr. Cooke to ensure that Baltimore-area fans have access to Redskins tickets, that goal can be achieved.

If the governor is insistent on a team in Baltimore, I suggest that he inform potential local owners that they make arrangements to buy any available NFL club (most likely the New England Patriots Tampa Bay Buccaneers) within 120 days of the Super Bowl.

If that cannot be accomplished, embrace Mr. Cooke's plan and bring the Redskins to Laurel. I'm putting my name on the season ticket list today.

Scott T. Medvetz

Sparks

NFL follies

Inasmuch as the National Football League has no regard for tradition, I propose that induction of players into the Football Hall of Fame be suspended until there is a change in ideology.

If there had been any respect for past glory, Baltimore would have had a team years ago -- or at least would have been No. 1 in this expansion.

Lloyd Haag

Baltimore

It's time to rethink the war on drugs

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