Grand jury study of county jail is standardI am writing...


February 16, 1997

Grand jury study of county jail is standard

I am writing concerning the misleading article published Jan. 19 concerning the Howard County Detention Center. I would like to explain how regulated and controlled all correctional institutions are in Maryland.

First, grand juries are by law to review the correctional institutions in their jurisdictions. So for a grand jury to review a local detention center is usual and, in fact, should be done each year. Have you looked at past reports?

Every correctional institution in Maryland must meet state standards, both training and operational. The Maryland Commission on Standards does a regular review and issues a complete report. I believe the Howard County Detention Center has always done very well on these inspections. Have you looked at these reports?

Correctional institutions in Maryland are more regulated and inspected than any other public safety agency, including the police.

I have worked in the criminal justice system in Maryland for more than 25 years. I do inspections for the American Correctional Association, the state of Maryland and am a citizen of Howard County. I feel confident in the protections for the inmate population, staff and citizens of Howard County in the operations of the county detention center.

Neil E. Dorsey


Village board favors Columbia sports park

I am writing in response to your Feb. 1 article regarding the Columbia Association's budget hearings held on Jan. 29 and 30. You neglected to mention that six villages made statements to the fact that they supported the funding for the proposed West Columbia Recreation Facility and Sports Park.

As village chairperson of Hickory Ridge, I can say that our village board listened to its residents and presented their views at the hearings. I feel that these facilities would be an asset to Columbia as do our residents.

Linda Hitzelberger


Hill Staton did not lose because of her race

Your analysis of the reasons for the rejection of Judge Donna Hill Staton by the voters of Howard County was a gross distortion of the truth. Ms. Hill Staton did not lose the election because of her race. Indeed, more Howard County voters likely voted for her because of her race than against her for that reason.

Her appointment and that of Judge Diane O. Leasure were controversial from the outset. The governor arrogantly disregarded the wishes of the Howard County legal and political communities and appointed two lawyers who were well-connected to his administration but whose involvement in the county was limited to little more than their residency.

While Judge Leasure quickly demonstrated that she was conscientious and diligent in discharging her judicial responsibilities, Judge Hill Staton soon accumulated an unacceptably large backlog of heard but undecided matters.

My client, an African-American, by the way, was egregiously victimized by Judge Hill Staton's nonfeasance. After waiting 20 months and enduring three postponements by her, he finally was granted a hearing before the judge on July 2, 1996, on an appeal from an administrative agency to determine whether he would be reinstated to his state employment that had been terminated in 1991. At the conclusion of the hearing, she announced that a decision would be rendered in the near future.

It is now the relatively distant future, Judge Hill Staton has left the bench and my client's case remains undecided. Because they were greatly disappointed by her performance, a number of Howard County lawyers and their clients who had initially supported Judge Hill Staton had withdrawn that support by Election Day, thus ensuring her defeat.

The system worked well in the judicial election last year in Howard County. A judge who was not doing her job was displaced on the Circuit Court by District Court Judge Lenore R. Gelfman, a highly respected, hard-working, experienced jurist.

What possibly could be wrong with that?

Barry C. Steel


In his Jan. 12 column on judgeships, Norris West is in quite a rush to get the word out that an African-American should be brought on board as the last District judge.

He does not seemed concerned that any other qualified minorities might be waiting in the wings. He does not even question the naming of a white male to the District bench. I don't understand this lack of concern that a white male was selected, especially after he cites the long history of this group's domination over the Howard County judiciary.

He also complains that the county is in dire need of another judge, besides the recently appointed Neil Axel, because of the workload. When was the first time that the governor could have filled these positions? There was a suggestion that the governor should hold off until after the election in order to appoint an African-American judge to fill a district slot if Donna Hill Staton happened to lose her position on the Circuit Court.

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