It's time to shut down the juvenile facilities that harm...

April 07, 2002

It's time to shut down the juvenile facilities that harm inmates

Absent from The Sun's article regarding the $4.6 million boot camp settlement was the fact that this tragedy involving hundreds of incidents of violent abuse and emotional neglect could and should have been prevented ("Boot camp deal is struck," March 29).

Just weeks ago, a 15-year-old girl took her life in a juvenile facility ("Girl, 15, found dead at detention facility," March 16). And allegations of physical violence and sexual misconduct by staff members and youths continue to be reported out of facilities such as the Cheltenham Youth Facility, the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School and the Thomas J.S. Waxter Children's Center.

Patterns of illegal and immoral behavior are more than just troubling. They are causing irreparable harm to too many youths. Why must this persist year after year?

There are secure programs proven to provide safe and humane environments for violent youths. There are supervision programs that turn young people's lives around, yet also hold them accountable for their illegal behavior.

The time has passed to do the right thing. The time has come to shut down these facilities that take decent kids, kids with futures, and turn them into career criminals or worse.

Maryland is way overdue to improve care for youths in custody. We must come together to prevent yet another tragedy.

Heather A. Ford

Baltimore

The writer is director of the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition.

State did the right thing in juvenile justice suit

While I am appreciative of The Sun's coverage of the settlement on which I worked as lead counsel ("Boot camp deal is struck," March 29) for those injured at Maryland juvenile boot camps, the reporter only told half the story despite extensive conversations with me.

This settlement is unique in focusing on the education needs of these youths as they work to become productive citizens. As I told the reporter, we could not have achieved such a beneficial and unprecedented settlement without the dedication and commitment of the Attorney General's Office, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the state.

In the 2 1/2 years of negotiations that led to this settlement, the state was not only straightforward in its dealings, but committed to reaching many of the same goals we sought for our clients.

Credit should be given where credit is due. The Sun should have recognized and reported that the state did the right thing.

John P. Coale

Washington

Settlement shows offenders that crime really does pay

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and her adviser, Michael Sarbanes, would have readers believe it is a good thing that the state has agreed to a $4.6 million settlement for 890 former juvenile boot camp inmates ("Boot camp deal is struck," March 29). Who are they kidding?

The reality is that Ms. Townsend and Mr. Sarbanes are trying to quickly put their incompetence behind them before the campaign season is in full swing.

Had her administration paid closer attention to the juvenile justice program, any abuse by guards could have been curtailed quickly. Unfortunately, the failure by Ms. Townsend resulted in canceling a potentially effective program before it had a chance to show results and a significant settlement of money that could have been used elsewhere, for schools, for example.

They will continue to spin this story in a positive light, but the truth is that as a result of their ineffectiveness, Ms. Townsend and Mr. Sarbanes have shown these juveniles that crime does pay.

Allen Furth

Annapolis

On gun policy, it's Ehrlich who lies out on the fringe

During Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich's gubernatorial announcement, he claimed that criticisms against his "A" rating from the NRA came from "fringe groups" ("Ehrlich's candidacy now official," March 26). But when it comes to gun policy, it is Mr. Ehrlich who is on the fringe.

As a congressman, he voted to repeal the national assault weapons ban and voted against requiring thorough background checks on all sales at gun shows.

The overwhelming majority of Marylanders support our state's effective, common-sense gun safety laws. By contrast, Mr. Ehrlich has sided with the gun lobby over public security time and time again. So who's really on the fringe?

Matt Fenton

Lutherville

The writer is president of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse Inc.

Pastor of St. Leo's is a gift from God

I thank John Rivera for his outstanding article about the Rev. Michael Salerno, the pastor of St. Leo's Church ("Big revival at St. Leo's," March 31). In these turbulent times for the Catholic Church, the article was uplifting and inspiring.

I can't say enough about the Reverend Salerno and the various ideas he has brought to St. Leo's. He is kind, he is generous and his homilies are short, sweet and funny, but send a message.

We thank God for sending us this pastor.

Anne Rinaldi

Baltimore

Metro subway system needs links to light rail

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