City must support vulnerable citizens, not incarcerate...


November 06, 1999

City must support vulnerable citizens, not incarcerate them

We were concerned to read of the Downtown Partnership's plans to pursue legislation that would make it illegal to sleep or camp outdoors at night downtown ("Proposal seeks to revitalize the city," Oct. 26).

While we share Downtown Partnership president Laurie Schwartz' desire to ensure that persons experiencing homelessness "get help in shelters and medical facilities," the city simply does not have the shelter capacity to serve its several thousand citizens who lack a place to sleep each night.

Many of these individuals have mental illnesses, physical disabilities or addictions -- sometimes all three -- that prevent them from using existing shelters.

Despite the "treatment on request" policies of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and city Health Commissioner Dr. Peter Beilenson, access to substance abuse treatment for vulnerable, uninsured populations remains limited, at best.

The most needed resource for the homeless, residential treatment, is especially scarce. Long waiting lists are a major barrier to treatment -- and addicts, with no place to go, return to the streets.

In practice, the "continuum of care" for the homeless and the addicted remains little more than an alliterative title.

We have seen all too clearly the unfortunate result of criminalizing addiction: Correctional facilities overburdened with individuals whose primary "crime" is a treatable addiction.

The measure the Downtown Partnership suggests would only further criminalize the tragic reality of homelessness.

Providing appropriate addiction treatment and adequate social supports, however, would be a step forward for Baltimore.

Robert White Baltimore

The writer is president of Addiction Treatment Advocates of Maryland.

Where are the witnesses to city's other crimes?

As a former commander of the Baltimore police homicide and robbery units, it amazes me that whenever there's a police shooting, or an accusation of excessive force by the police, there's no shortage of so-called eyewitnesses who appear before the news media -- along with lawyers and politicians who pontificate about the perceived injustice.

Yet, in a city with more than 300 murders a year and thousands of assaults, robberies and drug deals, finding a witness in those cases is virtually impossible.

What does that say about our society?

John C. Barnold Timonium

Three cheers for Gregory Kane's recommendation that we give polygraph tests to the alleged eyewitnesses to the Larry Hubbard shooting ("You can't always trust eyewitness accounts," Oct. 30).

I agree with Mr. Kane that too many people are sitting in prison or on death row because of "eyewitness" testimony.

Let's give the justice system a chance -- and stop judging Officer Barry Hamilton before all the testimony is heard.

I fear that many people forget that had Mr. Hubbard not resisted arrest, the whole unfortunate incident never would have happened.

V. Christian Baltimore

Other Larry Hubbards can still be saved

Larry Hubbard's death could have been prevented. But where were the preachers, politicians, lawyers and community leaders while this young man was building an arms-length criminal record?

Why didn't the publicity-seeking preachers call their flocks together and go into the wilderness (the streets of East Baltimore) to save this young man from a life of crime?

Why didn't these dollar-hungry lawyers and tear-shedding witnesses come up with programs to save him?

There are many more Larry Hubbards out there in the wilderness. It's not to late to save them.

Mildred Player Baltimore

Slavery, not abolitionist, should be `notorious'

I am willing to wager that no one of African-American descent had anything to do with the photograph captions for The Sun's recent article on Civil War relics ("Bidding war," Oct. 26).

Referring to John Brown as a "notorious abolitionist" seems rather pale.

One would think that, in a time when men were enslaving other men, Malcolm X's philosophy of "by any means necessary" ought to apply.

David Simon Baltimore

National pastime reflects our national prejudices

My congratulations to George Mitrovich and John "Buck" O'Neil for "Blacks play catch-up in national game" (Oct. 24). I love the game of baseball and its heroes. Jackie Robinson was not only a baseball Hall of Famer, but a civil rights leader.

However, when I worked in a baseball museum, my effort to boost black attendance fell on on deaf ears. When I visit Camden Yards, most of the black people I see seem to be stadium workers.

Today, it is much easier for city youth to play basketball than to search for a baseball diamond in good condition and find enough equipment to play.

Major League Baseball is exactly like corporate America: It's run mainly by middle-aged white men, who don't care as long as the seats are filled.

The American game is sadly a direct commentary on how many whites see America and African-Americans.

Timothy Nevels Randallstown

Some boxing divisions still boast real champions

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