More jail time isn't preventing repeat offenses In...


July 11, 2002

More jail time isn't preventing repeat offenses

In "Jail time for drug crime pays off" (Opinion Commentary, July 2) corrections professional Hal Riedl fails to provide any statistical evidence to support his point. That's because his premise is indefensible.

More people are being locked up for violating drug laws, but fewer of them receive any help to change their behavior. As a result, more of them continue to break the law once they are released.

Mr. Riedl argued that "the greatest benefit of incarceration is the drop in crime." But building more prisons for two decades hasn't convinced inmates to stop breaking the law.

In the first major study of recidivism in more than a decade, the Justice Department found in a study released last month that the rate at which inmates released from state prisons commit new crimes rose 5 percent from 1983 to 1994. During that same time, the number of people behind bars doubled.

And two out of every three inmates released from state prisons in 1994 committed at least one serious new crime within three years.

Clearly, two things need to happen: We should increase drug treatment dramatically and start treating drug abuse as a public health crisis.

The RAND Corp. has reported that every additional dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs. And distributing clean syringes to addicts would help fight diseases such as AIDS.

The final solution might be legalizing drugs. But in the meantime, our approach needs to start heading in the right direction. Because getting tough isn't working.

Christopher Heun


An `opportunity' only for Ehrlich

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s selection of Michael Steele as his running mate does, indeed, represent an effort to create an "opportunity ticket" ("Ehrlich declares `opportunity ticket' with party chief," July 2). But it seems clear that the selection of Mr. Steele, as a man of color, is intended to widen only Mr. Ehrlich's personal window of opportunity in this fall's election.

While I applaud Mr. Steele's courageous stand against the death penalty, as lieutenant governor he would have little say regarding its existence; that decision would lie in the hands of Mr. Ehrlich, a vocal proponent of that practice.

What Mr. Steele does seem to bring to this campaign, judging from his spewing of sarcasm and venom following the announcement of his candidacy, is a second helping of Mr. Ehrlich's trademark mud-slinging tactics.

Mark Gruber


Candidates seek to deny the obvious

I was not thrilled with my options during the past two gubernatorial elections. And this year I had hopes for better choices. Instead, both candidates have selected running mates who deny the undeniable.

Despite his running mate, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a leading "Gingrich guerrilla," has the voting record of an extreme conservative.

And despite her selection, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is (literally) a traditional Kennedy liberal.

At least gubernatorial candidates Parris N. Glendening and Ellen Sauerbrey were honest about who they were.

How has our electoral system come to this? And how do we fix it?

Dan Shemer


Take in the displaced whites of Zimbabwe

As an American of European heritage, I am appalled and outraged at the silence surrounding the atrocities in Zimbabwe. And now that President Robert Mugabe is being compared to Josef Stalin ("Harvesting a disaster," editorial, July 1), who also created a devastating famine through "land reform," where are offers of refugee resettlements?

Sadly, when the perpetrator is black and his victims are white, no one dares utter the words "racism" or "genocide." Yet this is what is happening in that once-prosperous African country. Where, oh where, are the U.N. troops, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international human-rights advocates?

America by tradition has welcomed millions of refugees and asylum seekers, yet no effort to resettle the besieged white farmers of Zimbabwe appears to be on the horizon.

Isn't it about time we welcomed these imperiled European-Africans to our shores?

Rosalind Ellis


Labyrinths provide an oasis of peace

I was delighted to read The Sun's article about the labyrinth recently installed and dedicated at Amazing Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church ("Steering area toward a new path," July 1).

What hope such a sacred space can give a community in decline, what peace it can bring to residents of a neighborhood torn by violence, drugs and poverty.

Readers will be pleased to know such oases of hope and healing are peppered throughout Baltimore. Thanks largely to the generosity of the TKF Foundation, labyrinths and healing gardens are now located in Govans, at the Govans Presbyterian Church; on Eastern Avenue, at Johns Hopkins Medical Center's Bayview Campus; in Gardenville, at St. Anthony of Padua Church; and in Parkside, at the Community of the Most Precious Blood.

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