Prisoners need work behind barsIn a recent column, George...


February 05, 1997

Prisoners need work behind bars

In a recent column, George Will wrote, ''some of the prisoners'' at the Maryland House of Corrections Annex in Jessup, which is Maryland's ''new'' maximum-security prison, ''are more easily confined than controlled in confinement.''

He attributes this to the ''explosive force of boredom.'' Throughout the history of penal institutions (as early as 1811 -- Maryland's Penitentiary) boredom has been combated by institutional workshops, road-gangs, schools and a number of other productive betterment programs for those incarcerated.

In the early existence of penal institutions, they were managed to return a profit to the state treasury. Maryland's own penitentiary for more than 100 years returned a profit after paying its complete operating costs including salaries.

Changes in the law restricted penitentiaries from selling products in direct competition with private enterprises. But numerous state and local government agencies remain a market for items produced by prisoners, not only to ease the burden on the state treasury but to fill the time of idle hands.

The Maryland House of Corrections Annex is a prime candidate for such industrial jobs, not only because of the lengthy sentences imposed on its prisoners but to relieve the ''explosive force of boredom.''

We could quote several penologists on their philosophy of prison management and reform, but I think former Chief Justice Warren Burger said it best, ''To confine offenders without trying to change them is an expensive folly.''

The violent episode at the Maryland House of Corrections Annex on Dec. 23, I believe, prompted Mr. Will to write his column. That act should more than point out the need for constructive use of these prisoners' time.

Mr. Will wrongly states, ''Aside from making license plates, there are too few jobs for the mostly young males whose failures of self-restraint got them here,'' as there are no jobs at the annex for prisoners to make license plates or any industrial items.

Jobs, as always, can correct many woes.

Paul Inskeep


Arbitrary sentencing no cure for violence

James Daniels was sentenced to 10 years in prison for pulling a gun on a motorist blocking Gorsuch Avenue on Sept. 5. Baltimore District Court Judge Theodore Oshrine sentenced Daniels to 10 years, one for each child on the street at the time who was "put in harm's way" by Daniels' impulsive action. Dan Rodricks, in his Jan. 27 column, calls Judge Oshrine's remarks evoking the death of James Smith III and protecting the children ''poetic'' and the outcome ''real good.''

I find the sentencing of someone for something he might have done not the least poetic, just or good. Daniels is responsible for his actions; but he is responsible only for his actions, not for what he might have done. For this crime and in light of Daniels' criminal record, the prosecution requested eight years, not ten. Surely eight years is enough. In fact, it is unlikely either sentence will improve Daniels' impulsivity or make our streets safer.

Everyone is frustrated with street crime and violence. But arbitary sentencing can only increase the bitterness that now exists in our city. The real issues are employment, education, racism and the availability of guns.

Lee Gould


State workers forced toward unionization

According to a recent article about pay raises for state employees, Senate President Mike Miller stated, ''The absence of a pay raise was not a surprise, given a major cut in the state income tax rate.'' The explanation in the past for the lack of a pay raise was the ''impending implementation of the performance appraisal method," a "budget shortfall" or "budget crisis." The lack of a cost-of-living increase has become normal.

A 2 percent cost-of-living increase for state workers would be an increase of 0.26 percent of the annual state budget. Mr. Miller also stated, ''If a tax cut as promised is going to be enacted, then sacrifices are going to have to be made in a number of places.'' What kind of sacrifice does 0.26 percent represent?

The state does give cost-of-living increases to unionized employees. The recent three-year contract between the Mass Transit Administration and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300 provides for a 1.5 percent increase the first year, a 2 percent increase the second year and a 2.5 percent increase the third year, in addition to base rate increases.

At the end of the three-year contract, there will be a 3 percent salary difference between supervisors and the technicians they supervise, assuming the state does little for the supervisor, which has become the norm. Maryland is driving state workers toward union representation.

James Hawkins

Stewartstown, Pa.

The writer is a supervisor with the Mass Transit Administration.

Pride of ownership shows in a letter

Could not an astute elementary school principal have upheld the honor of Cherry Hill Elementary School without the impassioned language used by her in a Jan. 24 letter?

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