Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 12, 2003

Paying parolees is the wrong way to use tax dollars

The goal of the governor's RESTART (Re-entry Enforcement and Services Targeting Addiction, Rehabilitation and Treatment) plan is commendable, but the approach is rather like shutting the barn door after the horse has run off ("Union criticizes Ehrlich prison plan, fearing correctional-officer job loss," Dec. 3).

Our legal system rarely sentences first-time offenders (and sometimes second- or third-time offenders) to prison. Therefore, most inmates have had several opportunities for rehabilitation before being incarcerated, by which time their behaviors and attitudes are deeply ingrained.

Positive reinforcement is a highly effective behavior-shaping method, but only when the subject is motivated to change -- as any member of a 12-step program will tell you.

Paying parolees to show up is an inappropriate use of tax dollars. Programs to prevent incarceration would be more valuable in the long run.

Children of people who don't model appropriate behavior are far more likely to be incarcerated than those who do. Increased counseling and the addition of psychiatric care through the school system could address emerging mental health and dependency issues for at-risk youths as well as teach children appropriate behavior before they experience the negative reinforcement of the legal process.

Additional benefits could include a reduced crime rate and reduced costs for the legal system, reduced instances of addiction and a better quality of life for those who avoided addiction or incarceration because of early intervention.

The return on investment for a prevention approach would likely be many times that of the RESTART approach.

T. Hamilton

Boonsboro

What real crime did Norris commit?

Should we indict every corporate leader and manager or political leader who has ever used his or her discretionary fund (i.e., expense account) to:

Make trips to another city where that person might be seen having dinner with someone other than his or her spouse?

Buy liquor for his or her home bar where he or she might entertain employees and other business associates?

Purchase gifts for his or her employees and clients?

Make business decisions that might enhance the income of his or her supporters?

Of course, if we did all of this indicting, we would likely have no more corporate leaders and managers (or presidents, governors and mayors), and our country would be toast.

I don't know if former Maryland State Police Superintendent Edward T. Norris "lies, cheats, steals" and is guilty of serious legal wrongdoing. I guess that is for the courts to determine ("Norris indicted by U.S.," Dec. 11).

What I do know is that Mr. Norris did one heck of a good job moving Baltimore's crime problems in the right direction, which was exactly why he was brought to Maryland in the first place.

I also know that the dollars involved in these allegations don't jump out at me as being significant, considering the size of Baltimore's police budget.

And there is one thing that Mr. Norris is clearly guilty of. He obviously stepped on the political toes that are attached to the political feet that are connected to the political legs that support some political butts that he refused to kiss.

William R. Ward

Ellicott City

Uncertified teachers not front-page news

Haven't we had enough recently of the Page One stories about the sad state of education in Baltimore? And the fact that 239 teachers in the 25 elementary schools with the area's lowest test scores are "conditional," i.e., uncertified ("Poorer schools get uncertified teachers," Dec. 7), is not stunning news -- nearly everyone who knows the system knows that uncertified teachers are widely used.

Surely this kind of statistical reporting is not front-page news. But what is front-page news? How about the deaths of nine children in Afghanistan ("9 children dead after U.S. air raid," Dec. 7), possibly as the result of an American military operation targeting the suspected killer of two foreign contract workers?

Why does The Sun bury this tragic story on Page 20 and plop the non-certification story down on the front page?

John S. Casey

Baltimore

Is poverty or conflict the cause of terror?

Since Sept. 11 we have been subjected to a constant barrage of commentaries and analyses, which have suggested that the underlying cause of worldwide terrorist activities is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If only this dilemma could be solved -- through the "road map" or otherwise -- the terrorists would go away -- or so we have been told.

But a report in The Sun's "Foreign Digest" stated that the underlying causes of terrorism, according to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, are poverty, crowded slums and grim prospects for employment in North Africa, which breed Islamic extremism ("Terror opponents should fight poverty, North Africans say," Dec. 6).

Which is it?

Leo Bretholz

Baltimore

Dean doesn't lean that far to the left

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