Saturday Mailbox


April 26, 2003

Arrests won't solve problem of prostitution

Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's assignment of a prosecutor to pursue nuisance crimes in Pigtown is yet another blow to this city's limited compassion ("Hoping to improve city quality of life," April 22).

When will we learn that we cannot arrest our way out of urban blight?

The prosecutor, Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Etheridge, acknowledges the role of social services, but then ignores it. If she is so concerned about public urination, why not spend that money on public toilets instead of arresting people who literally don't have a pot to pee in?

Increased arrests do not deter deviance. In the case of prostitution, one of the crimes highlighted in The Sun's article, women prostitute themselves for a variety of reasons but the threat of prosecution and punishment has never been shown to deter it.

Women involved in streetwalking are often survivors of childhood sexual abuse, undereducated, in tenuous housing and drug-addicted. Being arrested not only does not address those problems, it exacerbates them by further eroding whatever connections the women may have to housing, family and legal employment.

In a focus group I ran for women involved in prostitution in Baltimore, the consensus was that, despite the deplorable conditions in the city's women's detention center, being detained was considered part of "the life," and not a reason to stop prostituting.

But we know what does work - strategies such as drug treatment, counseling and case management.

For instance, the University of Maryland's School of Nursing completed an evaluation of YANA Place, a drop-in center in Southwest Baltimore for women who prostitute.

The evaluators found that as the number of client visits to YANA increased, the use of drugs and incidence of prostitution decreased. Punishment cannot claim such success.

We cannot afford to continue to use the criminal justice system to address social problems. When one considers the prostitution issue, the women are caught in a cycle of tricking, using and arrests. This means the city will spend thousands of dollars to sweep them off the street only to see them return.

And making prostitutes and others the local charwomen by assigning them to community service merely further marginalizes them without moving them toward a better life.

Eden C. Savino


The writer is a student at Johns Hopkins University's Institute for Policy Studies.

Lousy bus service needs big upgrade

As a longtime rider of public transportation (for more than 55 years), I wholeheartedly agree with the findings reported in the article "Study details MTA woes" (April 21) regarding bus maintenance (or the lack of it) and frequent breakdowns.

I'd like to add that service (with the possible exception of the subway and light rail) is abominable.

I ride the No. 44 bus to and from the Rogers Avenue station to meet the Metro subway to get downtown and then come home in the evening. It is not unusual to wait more than 45 minutes for a bus, especially in the evening.

And the areas surrounding the bus stops and Metro stations are poorly maintained. The bus shelters at certain locations - Pennsylvania Avenue, Rogers Avenue and others - are filthy.

My job allows me the pleasure of traveling to other cities. And I think it's ridiculous that I can get around better in those cities on public transportation than I can get around in Baltimore.

Whatever changes the Maryland Transit Administration is making, I hope they bring about improved service and better-maintained buses.

However, the MTA is seeking a fare raise of 25 cents and is talking of discontinuing service on some lines.

What kind of joke is this? The MTA will raise fares and cut service?

As I complained to the MTA recently, if the powers that be had to ride public transportation on a regular basis, the problems would probably go away almost immediately.

Ginger Williams


Don't balance budget on children's backs

The General Assembly in Annapolis recently concluded its session and slots were not successful this year. But with a budget deficit looming and massive cuts forthcoming, where do we go from here?

At a time when the city and state give tax breaks and plum deals to wealthy business people and corporations, we cannot forget the poor, and especially the children.

There are creative ways to raise revenue (increase the sales tax by a penny, tax alcohol and cigarettes, increase tolls). And I hope Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will not balance the budget on the backs of children and families who depend on government programs and state assistance.

Tax the high-income-earners. Tax the persons who are making $100,000 or more as well as companies that are based in Delaware but do business in Maryland.

These people and corporations can afford an increase in their taxes far more readily than the families who are at or below the poverty line can handle program cuts.

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