Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 23, 2005

Using lockdowns to boost safety of state's prisons

As reported in The Sun, Warden James V. Peguese ordered a lockdown of the Maryland House of Correction Annex (MHC-X) after four stabbings this month and a fatal stabbing in January ("Stabbings prompt lockdown at Jessup," Feb. 16).

Lockdowns are one of many tools used by corrections officials throughout the nation to ensure, on a regular basis, that cells are swept of contraband, weapons or weapon-making materials and that inmates are aware that correctional officers are always on the lookout for such materials.

In Maryland, lockdowns are routinely used once or twice a year to ensure the safety of our facilities. The warden of the MHC-X ordered the last lockdown of his facility in July, and ordered the current lockdown on Feb. 7. The length of the lockdown is up to the warden.

Violent assaults do occur in prisons, both in Maryland and around the country.

We are fortunate in Maryland that incidents of violence are decreasing. Division of Correction reports show that there were 1,540 inmate-on-inmate assaults throughout Maryland's prison system in 2001, 1,511 in 2002, 1,438 in 2003 and 1,295 in 2004.

However, our wardens take the safety of our staff and the inmates under their supervision as their primary responsibility.

A rash of stabbings at any of our facilities will be met with the necessary level of investigation demanded by our mandates and our dedication to public safety.

And a rash of stabbings, such as those experienced at MHC-X, calls for a lockdown, intensive searches and further investigation -- all of which Mr. Peguese is conducting.

As the commissioner of the DOC, I would never allow staff to falsify or manipulate data related to assaults in any of the correctional facilities.

Indeed, let me state categorically that we do not falsify or manipulate any kind of data.

My philosophy is to identify the problems in our agency and develop solutions so that acts of violence can be reduced, not covered up.

Frank C. Sizer Jr.

Baltimore

Take stronger steps to stop the shootings

The only saving grace to the horrific murder of William A. Bassett is that it was committed in Baltimore County, where State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor, one of the nation's toughest prosecutors, will not rest until the killers, once convicted, are given the needle and the people rid society of a couple more low-lifes ("Respected teacher at St. Paul's was Towson mall shooting victim," Feb. 20).

And the shame is on us who sit idly by while our political leaders vigorously pursue slot machines for the benefit of our children's futures rather than policies that would decrease crime against citizens.

These policies -- as practiced, for instance, in neighboring Virginia -- include arming citizens with the right to carry a concealed weapon and putting the thugs who illegally carry guns into the federal prison system through programs such as Project Exile.

It's time that Maryland's leaders pay attention to how crime reduction is successfully achieved by other states, and just do it.

Gary Gamber

New Windsor

Make malls meet security standards

Terrorism, sadly, lives in our communities.

The person or persons responsible for the tragic and useless loss of the life of the superb teacher William A. Bassett are as despicable as the terrorists in Iraq ("Respected teacher at St. Paul's was Towson mall shooting victim," Feb. 20).

No law, social conscience or value structure can thwart the thugs responsible for lawless actions such as this killing.

Mr. Bassett's murder must be a wake-up call for lawmakers to establish new laws and regulations to establish security standards for large malls.

The public and the government must demand that mall facilities meet high standards of public security -- after all, doing so is in their best financial interest.

Edwin S. Crawford

Baltimore

Malls only spread congestion outward

After reading The Sun's article on the Hunt Valley Towne Centre, I wondered: Why do people move out to the country and then welcome, almost demand, those things that they moved out here to get away from -- congestion, traffic, air pollution and crime ("A mall without walls," Feb. 19)?

The convenience of a large shopping center is nice. But to many of us the price we pay is too high.

Carolyn E. Murphy

Sparks

Market doesn't work in health care field

City Health Commissioner Peter L. Beilenson's column "Make HMOs justify increases" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 16) correctly points out that where market competition exists, price increases are attenuated, citing as an example the inability of airlines to pass along fuel cost increases.

However, he then states that increases in HMO costs are improper, presumably because greedy executives in charge at the HMOs drive prices up while remaining oblivious to market forces.

Dr. Beilenson's obvious error is to assume that market forces are at work in the area of medical care.

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