Offer alternative to ease burden on district court In...


May 19, 2002

Offer alternative to ease burden on district court

In 1973, under the leadership of Baltimore State's Attorney Milton Allen, Project FOUND (First Offenders Under New Direction) was established to divert young offenders from prosecution in District Court.

At the time, federal funds were available to underwrite the cost of experimental programs that, if successful, could become a permanent part of the justice system. And over the next several years, between 200 and 500 enrollees benefited from FOUND, receiving counseling, education and job-related services.

Three-quarters of participants had their misdemeanor charges dropped, and most did not clutter court dockets again. Various efforts at diversion in Baltimore were made in the following years.

But, as the director of that successful demonstration program of so many years ago, I find it disheartening that a viable, comprehensive diversion program is still not part of Baltimore's criminal justice system ("Judges seek aid in petty cases," May 9).

The fight against crime should be seen as an ever-tightening vise, with vigorous prosecution of serious and repeat offenders on the one hand and effective diversion and treatment of minor and first-time offenders on the other. The public interest requires that both sides of this equation be valued.

The lack of effective diversion programs simply means that we spend far more money on Maryland's many correctional institutions. Is that really preferable?

Joseph Baum


Death penalty study is sure to see bias

The state has commissioned, at a cost of $225,000, a study on the death penalty to be done by a University of Maryland professor described as a death penalty opponent ("UM study may shape future of death row," May 11).

The study is supposed to be scientific, exhaustive and unbiased. However, the reader gets three guesses at what the result of the study will be. No matter how good the study is, cognitive bias is bound to creep into its conclusions.

The law is not about sociological studies. And the Supreme Court has heard the statistical question before and rejected it.

This is a bogus, election-year affair and should be dismissed for what it is -- much ado about nothing.

George Toplanchik


Don't risk executing the innocent

On Tuesday, The Sun published nine letters opposing the moratorium on the death penalty in Maryland ("Moratorium on executions is justice denied," May 14). Some of these letters argued that the next person scheduled to die was guilty and deserved to die.

That may be, but don't these letter writers know that in the past quarter-century, 100 people sentenced to die were subsequently released as innocent? And who knows how many innocent people have been executed?

And, as a purely selfish matter, doesn't it occur to the letter-writers that they could be innocent but executed?

Henry Cohen


Let tribes reclaim their heritage

I read with sadness that Gov. Parris N. Glendening had vetoed legislation that would have given Maryland's Native American people a process for state recognition ("Tribal claim bill is vetoed," May 15).

I moved to Maryland in 1980, and the recognition of Maryland's indigenous population was an issue then. When I moved back to North Carolina in 1993, the debate still continued.

Now I believe it is only fair that the state set up a process to give its tribes something long overdue -- a chance to totally reclaim their heritage.

And how hypocritical for the state to claim that tribal recognition could bring about increased gambling to Marylanders. Any Marylander who wants to gamble, legally or illegally, already has an abundance of avenues available.

Do the right thing, Maryland: Recognize the Piscataway and the state's other tribes.

Barry Richardson

Hollister, N.C.

Invading Iraq is a foolish idea

Some people may have seen the article "An abiding goal: Topple Hussein" (May 12) as a "local boy makes good" piece about former John Hopkins dean and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. To me, it was both chilling and monumentally infuriating.

While I agree that Mr. Wolfowitz's premise that we ended the gulf war before making Iraq pay the ultimate price for invading its neighbor (Kuwait) is reasonable, the idea that we should now resume that effort after more than a decade is the height of foolishness. And it plays into every anti-American sentiment held by every fanatic and terrorist in the world today.

This country has never been the invader of a foreign nation no matter how odious we may think its leadership to be, and we shouldn't start now.

Joe Roman


Bush right to reject international court

The writer of the letter "Scorning treaty sets dangerous precedent" (May 13) overstates her case.

The treaty establishing an international criminal court was never ratified by the Senate. President Bush did our country and the world a favor by pointing out the obvious: It's better to reject a treaty one can't honor than to ratify it and not honor it.

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