Md. shouldn't publish list of sex offenders on World Wide...

Letters to the Editor

January 16, 1999

Md. shouldn't publish list of sex offenders on World Wide Web

I am concerned that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services would consider publishing the state's master list of sex offenders on the Internet ("Md. may list sex convicts on Web," Jan. 11).

This sounds like a re-creation of the environment in "The Scarlet Letter," by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This is one of many ways in which I see our popular media publicizing our sins in ways that are sensational and ultimately harmful for communities.

I understand that the fear of sexual violence is not to be taken lightly. I am a clinical social worker who works with children and adults who have suffered sexual attacks or abuse. Publishing the names of offenders will not stop sexual offenses. In some cases of incest or family violence, it might discourage victims from filing charges. I think specifically of children of incest who may be trying to balance the fear and anger of sexual abuse with the need and genuine love for a parent. Such a situation needs sensitive support, not public broadcast.

When we see another person hurt, we want to do something, anything, to make it better, to keep it from happening again. It seems unconscionable to let a child be in harm's way.

But other viable measures are in place to respond to offenders and protect the public. Anyone applying for a job with responsibility for children is required by law to provide fingerprints and a background check. Organizations would be wise to follow the same criteria for volunteers. We also need to support accessible treatment for offenders and victims.

Let us provide safe and healthy environments for children and adults. But let us not bandy about lists of bad guys at whom we can point our fingers. If we're going to publish offenders on the Internet, we may as well have each of our individual sins broadcast publicly.

Susan A. Johns, Catonsville

Education, not interdiction, is best way to fight drugs

Letter to the editor writer Joseph I. Molyneux ("Agents make the sacrifices in nation's `war on drugs' " Jan. 9) registered his dissent to a piece written by Ken Fuson, which advocated that addicts who seek help should get it.

Mr. Molyneux apparently feels that everyone in our country not using drugs would succumb to addiction just as soon as his "heroes" (Drug Enforcement Administration agents) stopped doing the wonderful work they do.

Does he really believe that's how people behave?

Speaking for myself and everyone I know, the question of legal vs. illegal drugs would not change our drug use at all. Education, on the other hand, has already been demonstrated to work. Just look at the statistics on smoking in this country: a 50 percent reduction in the number of smokers over the past 25 years has been achieved by increasing public awareness of the dangers of smoking.

Prohibiting a substance or an act increases its appeal -- that's human nature.

Those who become addicts are not responding to simple availability of a drug. These people have medical problems that need to be cured. The U.S government's approach of demonizing and incarcerating them only ensures that they'll never get better.

Bryan Soul, Boston, Mass.

Money for scandal but not for murder

Isn't it strange that the federal government spent $50 million or more on Monicagate, and the state had to let four accused murderers back on the streets because of lack of funds in the prosecutor's office?

Nat Luckman, Baltimore

Use sales tax to support transportation in state

The editorial "More money needed for roads, mass transit" (Jan. 13) makes a good case for tapping into the existing 5 percent sales tax for transportation and mass transit needs.

It makes little sense to increase gasoline taxes when the cost of fuel has dropped. The vagaries of the oil business make it a fool's errand to consider a gasoline tax increase because of low petroleum prices, unless the state is hoping to create a windfall when prices stabilize and begin to rise again.

All Marylanders benefit from safer and more efficient transportation. Whether one shops at local markets and stores, through catalogs or via the Internet, all goods that are purchased by consumers reach them and retailers via the transportation network.

Just as people without children are required to pay taxes to support public school systems, all residents should contribute their fair share toward the transportation needs of the state, whether they operate a motor vehicle or not.

Two caveats, however. One, the federal government owns the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It is not Maryland's property, and it is not the state's responsibility to repair it, especially without help from neighboring Virginia. Second, developers who continue to build new housing at a ridiculous rate must be held more accountable financially for the impact their subdivisions have on the state and local transportation systems. Such financial help should not be passed on to the buyer or other residents impacted by their building.

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