Giving jail time to juveniles won't solve problemWhile...

Letters to the Editor

November 04, 1998

Giving jail time to juveniles won't solve problem

While many in our country are obsessed with the presidential crisis, House Republicans have circumvented the proper process by pushing a controversial juvenile crime bill through Congress.

The House joined the Juvenile Crime and Accountability Act of 1997 (H.R. 3) to two popular and uncontroversial bills. H.R. 3 will, among other things, orders that states try more children as adults. Through this process, the House leaders effectively bypassed debate in the Senate.

Some of the more disturbing parts of H.R. 3 are the jailing of nonviolent teens (like runaways and kids arrested for loitering) with adult offenders; a process that would see kids suspended from school for half a year for regular tobacco use; and opening juvenile arrest records to colleges and universities to which students are applying.

The focus of spending would be on punishment and not on prevention and treatment. This is despite the fact that studies confirm that crime prevention efforts are three times more cost-effective than increased punishment.

It is also clearly documented that the cost of treatment has a greater long-term impact in reducing crime than locking up the youthful offenders without any services to alleviate the causes of their offending behavior.

The Juvenile Crime and Accountability Act of 1997 is a Draconian and barbaric measure that will put children and teens in prisons with murders, rapists and robbers. This will not help keep our kids and communities safe.

In fact, the kids who go to adult prisons will leave the prison system as hardened criminals, not productive citizens. Because House leaders know this bill cannot pass if the public sees its true nature, they have chosen to use a backdoor and deceitful process.

Children, adolescents and their families who are in trouble with the law often need help to address mental health problems, histories of abuse and neglect, learning problems and other issues.

This bill will provide no attention to these pressing needs for our youth and their families. The punish-at-all-costs mentality will perpetuate criminal behavior and feed adult prisons for years to come. We need to provide treatment of our youthful offenders while providing for the public safety.

I urge our legislators to oppose this bill. It is the wrong answer to a difficult social problem.

George L. Carlson

Baltimore

The writer is director of social services for the Good Shepherd Center.

Crime problem in city thwarts new residents

Your Oct. 15 article, "City populations on the increase," certainly painted a positive picture for urban living in our fine city. I only wish it were true.

My husband and I had planned to sell our house and move into the downtown area after the last child left the nest. We spent many weekends downtown and loved all that it had to offer. Now we are so glad that we didn't make that move.

Friends of ours did just that and then faced the reality of crime on a daily basis. They were mugged several times, once in front of Lexington Market in daytime hours. They became prisoners in their apartment after dark. Eventually, they moved out to Shrewsbury, Pa.

Another young couple bought and renovated a house in Otterbein. They persevered just five years, then moved out because of crime.

Our single friend thought she had it made when she moved into an apartment downtown. She could walk to the harbor, sports events, etc. This was short-lived; she discovered that walking a few blocks meant a threat to her safety anytime and moved out.

When I read the article on planning to convert the old Hecht-May building into apartments, I wondered who would want to live there. Just stand on the corner of Lexington and Howard streets one afternoon and observe the surroundings.

We still love the downtown atmosphere. It's wonderful, and we enjoy all that it has to offer, but we venture cautiously. Concentration on ridding the area of crime first would be a plus for those wishing to settle in downtown Baltimore.

Ethel A. Nelson

Baltimore

Sun needs to clarify meaning of 'special interest'

The Sun needs to clarify its definition of "special interest."

To lump nonprofit environmental groups, Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse and the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance with for-profit owners of racetracks, the National Smokers Alliance and the National Rifle Association is inaccurate, to say the least. A group seeking to protect the air we all breathe is not in the same category as a group whose primary purpose is the sale of guns.

Even the two sides of the abortion struggle are not in it for profit; they are fighting for causes they believe in.

Perhaps we need new terms, such as "public interest" for the nonprofits and "private interest" for the for-profits.

George Tyson

Baltimore

No sexism allowed in military service

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