Saturday Mailbox


November 05, 2005

Young offenders must be near home

I was appalled by the article "Young offender is sent to Iowa" (Oct. 27).

I am the mother of a son who was in and out of the juvenile justice system in Baltimore County from ages 8 to 18. He spent time in the Thomas J. S. Waxter Children's Center, in several boot camps in Western Maryland, at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School as well as other facilities.

Those were extremely stressful times for me as a single mother trying to do the right thing and turn my son around. But I cannot imagine not having been able to visit my child in person at that time.

Teenagers typically are not prolific letter writers, and the juvenile facilities often restrict phone calls to less than 10 minutes once a week. My only hope of contact was to visit and sit and talk to my son for an hour or two once a week.

That time was precious; without it, I doubt that we would still have a relationship today.

And I cannot fathom the idea of having my son shipped out of state for months or years with no physical contact or meaningful face-to-face conversations.

I have spent more hours than I care to remember sitting in stark, dismal visiting rooms watching parents of these children, hug, cry, pray and try to talk sense into these misguided youths, attempting to guide them onto a different path.

These brief visits are among the most emotional you will ever see between parents and children; they are heartbreaking, but without this connection to family, I can't imagine the depth of despair for both the child and parent.

How will these children turn their lives around without a caring, loving parent or guardian visiting them and giving them a brief respite from institutional life and hope for the future?

I certainly do not condone my son's behavior or the behavior of any of the juveniles put in these facilities. But aren't we supposed to love our children unconditionally and always be there for them no matter what?

How are we as parents supposed to do that when our child is hundreds of miles away? How is the child supposed to reform without close ties to his or her family?

Is shipping our children hundred of miles away really the only solution for our troubled children?

I cannot believe that Maryland cannot find a better solution to this horrific problem.

Lisa M. Smith


Send delinquents into military service

I have no sympathy for the hoodlums being sent out of this state after committing crimes against the innocent, law-abiding public. And I am concerned about the fact that The Sun put the article "Young offender is sent to Iowa" (Oct. 27) on the front of the Maryland section, while the article about a brave young soldier who died in combat was buried inside the paper ("Services held for young husband, devoted Marine," Oct. 27).

These brave servicemen and women are leaving college, their jobs and their families daily to be sent to foreign countries to fight against terrorism and for our freedom. They are coming home in body bags.

I will shed tears for each one who perishes in this god-awful war, and personally thank those who do return.

Young delinquents should be sent to serve in our military, where they would learn values and the meaning of serving our country honorably - not to some cushy facility where they will be coddled only to come back to our streets to resume a life of crime.

Ernest W. Bures


Why many students support Iraq war

As a 22-year-old graduate student, I am offended by articles such as "Little outcry raised on Iraq" (Oct. 24)

The political scientist Lou Cantori who is quoted in the article refers to young people, especially students on college campuses, as "apathetic" and unwilling to protest the war in Iraq. He claims that students are "passive" and display an "uncritical view" of the war.

Maybe some students aren't interested in politics and world events. However, what some writers do not explore is the idea that these young people and college students might be in favor of the war and feel no need to protest.

Our generation experienced Sept. 11, 2001 as adolescents and young adults, a critical time in the development of our values and beliefs.

Watching these events unfold as I was in college affected me profoundly and shaped my beliefs and how I feel about the world today.

I watched the world change. And we now face a new challenge we have never faced before - fighting terrorism. We must protect our country against terrorism in a way we have never done before.

Perhaps living through the Vietnam War has shaped the previous generation's beliefs and values about war and foreign policy. Some who came of age in this time are understandably extremely reluctant to use our military resources for a war on foreign soil.

However, I support the war in Iraq. I believe in thinking about the long-term effects of our actions and making the world a more democratic and safer place, starting with eliminating a dictator who killed thousands of his own people.

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