Letters To The Editor


April 27, 2005

Poor bear brunt of awful state of Central Booking

I commend The Sun for its effort to turn the spotlight on Baltimore's Central Booking and Intake Center, a medieval jail steps away from tony Mount Vernon but miles away from decency ("City faces detention delays," April 21).

As a law student at the University of Maryland, I had the opportunity to see firsthand one of Baltimore's best-kept secrets with my clinic class, which focuses on the pretrial system. And I know that Central Booking is a veritable dog pound of humans. The difference is that if dogs suffered these conditions, the public would be absolutely outraged.

With 10 or 12 people stacked up against each other in a tiny concrete holding cell - the cogent ones yelling at passers-by about how many hours they've been waiting to see the commissioner - the images evoke some of mankind's darkest historical events.

In an effort to concern the middle class, many articles on the jail have focused on the horror stories of college students who had an unfortunate run-in with the jail. The truth is that those are exceptional circumstances; the reality is much less glamorous.

It is the lower class that populates Central Booking. It is the lower class that gets caught in the system - brought in for drug problems, eventually released to the streets without treatment or a home, only to return on new charge.

And given that our bail system revolves around money, it is members of the lower class who languish in pretrial jail for weeks at a time until their trial date, because no one will post their $150 bail.

If the Maryland public is to become passionate about this issue, it won't be through a scare tactic. Rather, it will have to be because a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, because our national reputation depends on it, and because we can do better at guaranteeing due process for every Marylander.

To be sure, there are many inside the system working for its improvement. However, it is time to confront Baltimore's darkest scourge from all sides and muster more cooperation and diligence from every player in the system.

Greg Binstock


Too many arrests overwhelm system

Part of the reason for "system overload" at Central Booking is the increased arrest rate by the Police Department ("City faces detention delays," April 21).

As The Sun's article shows, the city police are spending time and resources arresting youths and poor people for crimes for which they often are never charged or have the charges dismissed in court.

Quality of life offenses such as sleeping on a park bench or panhandling or standing around on a corner in a group of three or more have become criminalized, giving the police more freedom to make arrests.

With more than 100,000 arrests per year, maybe we should analyze police arrest records rather than try to fix an already broken and overwhelmed system at Central Booking.

Laurie Bezold


Rising assessments hurt county retirees

Let's see: Your property assessment doubles; you are living on a fixed, private-sector retirement income; and the likelihood that Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. will reduce the property tax rate is nil ("Mr. Smith's budget," editorial, April 20).

That's our situation - and looking forward to a 4 percent annual increase in property taxes, forever, is not a comforting thought.

Is that why Maryland retirees are forced into selling their homes?

Does The Sun get it?

Beryl Lanterman


Turning a dispute into religious conflict

A segment of the Republican Party is arguing that senators who oppose certain judicial nominees on the basis of their faith-based positions are against people of faith ("Frist repeats call for vote on judicial nominees," April 25).

This is like saying that people who oppose the actions of faith-driven jihadists are opponents of Islam.

The positions taken by judicial nominees are clearly a reasonable basis for supporting or opposing their confirmation. The fact that a nominee asserts a religious basis for those positions cannot make their consideration illegitimate or evidence of hostility to people of faith.

It is astounding that these Republicans do not seem to care about the long-term danger of casting political disagreements as religious war.

John Anderson


Veterans not hostile to Mays memorial

The Sun's article "Mays not offended by decision in Hagerstown" (April 23) portrayed Willie Mays in an accurate and wonderful light. Mr. Mays and Babe Ruth are two of my all-time favorite baseball players.

However, in my opinion, that same article painted the veterans of Hagerstown in a manner they didn't deserve.

It should have been made clearer that the veterans objected only to the proposal to change Memorial Boulevard to "Willie Mays Way."

Memorial Boulevard was so named to honor veterans.

The veterans would support changing the name of one of several other streets in town to "Willie Mays Way" and even renaming the stadium as "Willie Mays Stadium."

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