Amnesty month for fugitives facing warrants It...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 22, 2000

Amnesty month for fugitives facing warrants

It certainly makes sense for city police officers to try to locate the 260 people who have warrants for murder and attempted murder here in Baltimore ("Fugitives warrant regional effort," July 11)

But what about the remaining 99.5 percent of Baltimore's 54,000 technical "fugitives"? Most were arrested for a non-violent, District Court or traffic charge and missed a court or probation appearance. Many cases are old. Others involve a failure to pay a fine.

People fear surrendering voluntarily because they are unlikely to have a lawyer. Absent counsel, they are likely to face a high bail and to spend considerable time in Baltimore's pretrial jails awaiting a new court date.

Correctional officials, too, are rightly concerned that warrant arrests will add to an already overcrowded population.

Here is a suggestion for reducing the task force's unenviable work load. Rather than engaging in a "hunt" that gives the police license to enter people's homes in the wee hours of the morning, local law enforcement should work with the criminal justice community and declare an amnesty month.

Amnesty would work in two stages. First, it would allow the many people who have warrants for less-serious charges to surrender to a local court, and be assured of being released that day pending trial. The presence of prosecutors and public defenders would ensure immediate attention be given these cases.

Second, it would target individuals charged with more serious crimes. They, too, would be encouraged to surrender to court where a judge would reinstate their prior bail conditions.

Amnesty Month would allow the regional law enforcement squad to concentrate on locating offenders who failed to take advantage of this opportunity. It would separate the real fugitives from people who want to remove this cloud and start anew.

Doug Colbert, Baltimore

Drug-treatment program needs emergency funding

The Crime and Drug Solution Work Group of the Neighborhood Congress has reminded the mayor of Baltimore of the urgency of funding the 220 drug-treatment slots that now have guaranteed funds only through August.

We know that the various drug treatment programs are very committed to their clients. But they have had to stop accepting new clients after receiving a letter from the city health department that indicated possible termination of the Mayor's Initiative on Treatment. That program funded slots serving 400 addicted persons in outpatient treatment ("Funding for drug centers falls short," June 3).

Knowing how important other programs and services are for Baltimore, especially those that might prevent our children's choosing a life with drugs in the future, we do not want this funding to come at the expense of public safety or to create a reduction in services in education, recreation, etc.

Citizens should be aware that Sen. Paul Wellstone introduced an amendment to the bill authorizing $60 billion for the Colombian government's war on drugs. The amendment would take $225 million and use it in this country for drug rehabilitation.

I was very disappointed in Maryland Sen. Paul Sarbanes' vote against the amendment. I thank Sen. Barbara Mikulski for voting in favor of the amendment.

Wouldn't we need to reduce the demand for drugs before trying to cut off the supply, which we have not done successfully in all these 40-plus years of trying?

Marilyn Carlisle, Baltimore

Columbus Center research continues, with occupants

One day after you wrote a terrific story on biotech students at Southern High working with marine research scientists from the Columbus Center, and following your paper's recent reports of innovative urban fish farms being spawned by Columbus Center research, you reported July 18 that "the Columbus Center, at Pier 5 and East Pratt Street, closed. That building remains vacant" ("Yacht is expected to aid East Harbor development").

The Columbus Center was always intended to be, is, and always will be primarily a research facility; it has been filled with researchers since March 1995.

A comparatively small public exploration space closed in 1997 after its attendance failed to achieve expectations, which forced the Columbus Center corporation into reorganization and then bankruptcy. (The story of why the plug was pulled so suddenly is best left untold.)

The Columbus Center was always intended to be the next Woods Hole scientific center, not the next National Aquarium, and it seems to be a great success in what it was primarily designed to do.

Stan Heuisler, Baltimore

The writer is the former executive director of the Columbus Center.

Democrats ended legal segregation

Bill Hilton (letter, July 15) criticizes a Mike Lane cartoon regarding a Republican Party "whites only" drinking fountain. He correctly notes that the laws creating such facilities were passed and enforced by Democrats and goes on to say that "It was only after legal segregation was ended that Republicans began to be elected in those states."

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