State Created County Jail MessWith due respect to our...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 05, 1995

State Created County Jail Mess

With due respect to our politicians who are currently arguing about where a new jail should be built, whether it should be a work release or a maximum security facility, whether we need one jail or two, in North County and/or South County, I think they are fighting the wrong fight. The need for a new county jail was created in 1986 when House Bill 474 extended the minimum length of sentences necessary before a prisoner could enter the state penal system from three to 18 months. . . .

I have heard any number of explanations as to why House Bill 474 was passed, ranging from a.) typical pass-the-buck legislation which shoves the cost back to the counties to b.) lets all the counties share the burden of housing their own prisoners. Regardless of the rationale, the law increases the total cost of housing prisoners in Maryland by forcing every jurisdiction in the state to build -- let's not kid ourselves -- full-blown, high-security prisons instead of consolidating that function at the state level. The law increases construction costs in three ways:

First, urban and suburban jurisdictions are forced to build public nuisances on or near valuable commercial and residential property. . . .

Second, . . . all the counties are forced into the unenviable position of either housing non-violent prisoners in very expensive high-security prisons or operating multiple facilities for different classes of prisoners. . . .

Third, since inmates are now required to stay in county prisons for up to 18 months, every county must build, staff and operate facilities for recreation, education and rehabilitation. . . .

As a businessman and economist, I cannot believe that forcing 24 local jurisdictions to build and operate 24 high-security prisons with all the required activity facilities for dangerous and violent criminals is more cost-efficient than enlarging the state 00 penal system. . . .

Finally, Anne Arundel County currently houses nearly 5,500 prisoners, 27 percent of all the prisoners in the state penal system. In the interest of fairness, I believe that Anne Arundel County and three other jurisdictions (Washington and Somerset counties and Baltimore City), which together house 91 percent of the state's prisoners, should be exempt from the requirements of House Bill 474. If our county were exempt, the county's dangerous felons would enter the state penal system immediately upon conviction, the current facility at Jennifer Road could continue as a work-release center, and $20 million to $40 million in prison construction money could be freed up for our schools.

Brian G. Brooks

Pasadena

Emissions Testing

Everyone agrees the air we breathe should be as clean as feasible. It is my opinion the legislature and governor were panic-stricken fearing the loss of federal highway funds and acted before they studied the merits of the Emissions Test Program and the inequities in the program. . . .

The claim that the program will eventually reduce pollution in Maryland by 39 tons per day is a wild guess to sell the merits of the program to the public; there can be no facts available at this time on which to base the claim. The facts are:

* The only reduction in emissions will be cars that do not pass the new test that would have passed the tailpipe test. . . .

* A car fails the test. The required $250 is spent and still the car doesn't pass. The owner is given an inspection waiver. Testing the car did not reduce the pollution. . . .

* The only noticeable reduction in pollution will be cars used daily in heavy traffic areas. These cars are depended on for daily use. Usually late model cars, properly maintained, are used for this purpose and a high percentage of them should pass the test. . . .

Emission tests should include the entire state. A legislator from Wicomico County votes for the tests, yet his constituents aren't affected by the vote. An inequity also exists in the use of the funds at the state level. Although only a part of the state is mandated to participate in the emissions tests to qualify the state for federal highway funds, the entire state can benefit from the use of these funds. . . .

Dora D. Rainer

Linthicum

Teaching Torture

I am extremely outraged by Del. Clarence Davis' proposal of a bill that would permit judges to sentence teen-agers to as many as 10 hits by a rattan cane.

This is certainly the most barbaric piece of legislation I have ever seen proposed. I hope that no member of the Maryland General Assembly has considered co-sponsoring this legislation which can only impede the progress that our state is making toward a more civilized society.

Why would we want to teach our children that violence and physical torture are answers to solving problems in our communities? The most current national research has repeatedly proven that the use of corporal punishment on children or adults has only increased the likelihood of violent behavior, not diminished it.

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