State settlement on boot camps is a positive step It is...


August 18, 2002

State settlement on boot camps is a positive step

It is certainly true that juvenile justice issues are being politicized during this gubernatorial campaign ("State approves $4.6 million for former boot camp inmates," Aug. 8). In such a climate, basic truths can be obscured.

For example, rather than showing what is wrong with juvenile justice in Maryland, the boot camp settlement represents a clear-eyed view of reality and an innovative remedy.

Research has discredited the boot camp model, and in Maryland, young people were badly abused in boot camp programs. The state should be commended for quickly resolving the young people's claims, and crafting a settlement that gives them specially tailored access to education.

What else is necessary in juvenile justice?

The continued shift from warehousing youths in large, remote, ineffective locked facilities, such as the Cheltenham Youth Facility, toward community-based programs and services that are more likely to rehabilitate youths, not harm them.

Ensuring that the education needs of all Maryland's children are met, at home or in state custody.

Reducing the unfair impact of race on treatment in the juvenile justice system.

The state has taken some praiseworthy steps in the last few years, such as the closure of the Victor Cullen Academy, the planned downsizing of Cheltenham and the development of better tools for evaluating youths. But it has also missed opportunities.

And much more needs to be done, regardless of who is our next governor.

Maceo Hallmon


The writer is the acting chairman of the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition.

Ehrlich blows chance to rise above politics

As someone who has worked long and hard to promote reforms to Maryland's juvenile justice system, it pains me to see how gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is using the recent boot camp settlement to his political ends ("State approves $4.6 million for former boot camp inmates," Aug. 8).

While the boot camp fiasco is a painful chapter in Maryland's history, the settlement will buy services for troubled youths and help them on the road to recovery -- something candidates of all political stripes should support.

To my mind, Mr. Ehrlich missed a golden opportunity to rise above the politics of the moment and laud the efforts of young people to get on the straight and narrow.

Vincent Schiraldi


The writer is president of the Justice Policy Institute.

Don't shift blame for police spending

Let me get this straight: Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris defends his top aide Thomas Tobin's unaccounted-for use of thousands of dollars from an obscure police fund with the statement, "The people supposed to be watching the fund were not watching it" ("Norris, police spend off-the-books funds on trips, gifts, meals," Aug. 14).

Isn't that like a bank robber who rationalizes his crime by stating that no one was in the bank to stop him?

Arthur Laupus


It would appear that Baltimore's police commissioner has something in common with the people his department arrests. Neither the crooks nor the commissioner thought they would be caught.

I also fail to see a connection between sloppy accounting and the commissioner's very extravagant spending.

Fred A. Schumann


I found Mayor Martin O'Malley's remarks about Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris not being a strong "accountant" very interesting ("O'Malley says Norris more competent as police chief than as an accountant," Aug. 14).

Is the mayor implying that the only problem here is the lack of documentation of expenses?

Even Commissioner Norris states, "The people supposed to be watching the fund were not watching it." I guess if someone was watching the books he wouldn't have spent so much money. So he can't be held responsible.

Fiscal responsibility extends further than just following good accounting practices.

Anne Kerr


Plebes who drop out deserve respect, too

As the parent of a plebe at the Naval Academy, I enjoy every scrap of news or information about the Class of 2006 or the academy in general, and having just returned home from Plebe Parent Weekend, I recognized our own experience in the article ("A sweet taste of freedom," Aug. 10).

One statement that left a bad taste in my mouth, however, was, "Already, 47 members of the class of 2006 have washed out."

There are lots of reasons people separate from the academy, and to denigrate those who realize quickly that they are not cut out for academy life by tossing them in the heap of washouts is ungenerous and largely inaccurate.

The splendid success and difficult challenges met by the plebes who are there is in no way elevated by such a simplistic view of what is happening to all of these fine young men and women -- even those who find out early that they are in the wrong place.

But thanks for covering my favorite subject.

Stuart Weibel

Columbus, Ohio

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