Courts' technology needs upgrading, but it won't come...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 18, 1999

Courts' technology needs upgrading, but it won't come cheap

The Sun's editorial "Upgrading Baltimore's low-tech court system" (Sept. 9)made one very important point, but was flatly wrong on another.

The Sun is correct that the criminal justice system badly needs to upgrade, and in some cases initiate, information technology services. Some of us, backed by State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, have been trying to do this for years.

Data sharing, when we can get there, is the ultimate hope. Information -- and the ability to collect and analyze it -- is the most important game in town.

The Sun is completely incorrect, however, and does citizens a major disservice, in suggesting that this objective could be accomplished quickly for $20,000.

The State's Attorney's Office has been developing information technology services for the past three years, including laying the groundwork for data sharing.

Even though we have worked hard to maximize the cost-effectiveness of our purchases, this effort has not come as cheaply as The Sun suggests it could.

It is true that legislative attention to this issue would be welcome and The Sun has been very influential in improving the criminal justice system.

However, I would ask that it not mislead its readers that there is a cheap, quick fix to a complex problem. Instead, please settle into the more difficult task of helping find a long-term solution.

Alan C. Woods, Baltimore

The writer is division chief for research, training and development at the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.

Flag may be hateful, but it is protected

In her recent letter, Bridget Carter asserts that displaying the Confederate flag is "hate speech, pure and simple," and the government therefore has a "responsibility to prosecute anyone who exhibits [the flag] in public." ("Displaying Confederate flag is simply hate speech," Sept. 11).

I don't think it's so "pure and simple" that displaying the Confederate flag is hate speech. But, even if it were, the government has no right, much less a responsibility, to prosecute a person who flies the flag.

In this country, we have a little document called the Constitution. Its First Amendment reads, in part, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech."

This means that people may express their opinions, whether we like it or not.

A move to ban so-called "hate speech" not only ignores the Constitution, but gives those in power the right to determine just what constitutes hate speech and starts us down the path of prosecuting people for their thoughts.

I pray we never tread this rocky path to totalitarianism.

Stephen Nobles, Baltimore

I agree that flying the Confederate flag is hate speech, but, as a lawyer, I must note that hate speech is protected, like any other speech, by the First Amendment.

Inciting to riot is not protected speech and committing a crime motivated by hate may bring a longer sentence. But, in other contexts, we have a right to express hatred.

Common decency, not the law, should cause us not to fly the Confederate flag.

Henry Cohen, Baltimore

Confederate flag bespeaks respect for forefathers

I reserve the right to fly the "Stars and Bars" if and when I see fit.

I am not a racist; I do not fly that flag out of hatred for any other race. I fly it out of respect for those in my family who died in the war between the states.

My family fought and died on both sides of that war. My Southern forefathers fought because they would not let folks in the North tell them what they could do.

I will not allow anyone to tell me how I can pay respect to those who fought and died before me.

Albert Franklin Hunt, Jr., Halethorpe

No civic duty to vote in parties' primaries

In some recent recent cartoons and the editorial "Every vote matters in today's election" (Sept. 14), The Sun urged registered Democrats and Republicans to vote because it "matters."

However, neither the cartoons nor the editorial put forth any argument explaining why an individual vote might matter, other than two rather exceptional examples.

The editorial suggests that voting is a "civic duty." Voting in primaries is a duty? From whence is that duty derived?

I don't recall ever being informed that participation in the political side-maneuverings of a private party organization is a civic duty. Voting may be duty of party membership -- maybe -- but not a civic duty.

If it were, where would that leave all us crazy independents?

Or is The Sun trying to argue that voting in the primary really is a civic duty because in Baltimore a vote in the primary is de facto a vote in the general election?

Michael Hoke, Baltimore

Sun must keep policing basic civility in politics

Kudos to The Sun for bringing appropriate attention to the incident in which supporters of City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III jeered Councilman Martin O'Malley, Del. Howard Rawlings and others during the recently concluded mayoral primary campaign.

I hope The Sun will continue to be as vigilant in exposing such ugly behavior in the future.

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