Letters To The Editor


October 14, 2006

City juvenile center only getting worse

Once again, when faced with a report detailing dangerous and even unconstitutional conditions at a state-run juvenile justice facility, Kenneth C. Montague Jr., secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, claims that the findings are old news.

Mr. Montague says that the U.S. Justice Department report recently made public by The Sun pinpoints conditions at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center from one year ago, and says that the revelations no longer reflect current reality ("Center endangers juveniles, U.S. says," Oct. 7).

He's right. Things are now worse.

According to the Quarterly Report of the Independent Juvenile Justice Monitor, the number of aggressive incidents at the juvenile justice center rose from 245 in the year's first quarter to 310 in the most recent quarter for which data are available, an increase of more than 25 percent.

Data comparing specific months in 2005 and 2006 also show dramatic increases in the number of assaults and in the incidents of staff use of force: In January 2005, there were 60 assaults (an average of 1.9 per day); this January, there were 82 assaults (2.6 per day).

By June, the center was averaging 3.5 assaultive incidents per day, nearly twice as many as 18 months previously.

Stephen Moyer, deputy secretary of juvenile services, is quoted in the article as saying, "The department is light-years ahead of where it was, and it's going in the right direction."

But if he thinks this is moving in the right direction, he's terribly wrong.

Linda Heisner

Kim Armstrong


The writers are, respectively, deputy director of Advocates for Children and Youth and community outreach coordinator for the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition.

Overrating the risk guns cause to kids

We all share Dan Rodricks' revulsion over the Amish schoolhouse murder-suicide and other recent gun crimes. However, the sneering arrogance of his column "Gun news is `white noise' in land of the NRA" (Oct. 5) is particularly ugly, especially when he taunts that readers need not respond, because he already knows what we think.

In other words, his mind is made up, so don't confuse him with the facts.

I'd nevertheless like to suggest that Mr. Rodricks consider the following facts.

According to economist Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, a residential swimming pool is 100 times more likely to cause a child's death than a gun. Yet Mr. Rodricks is not decrying swimming pools. And when was the last time a child drowning in a residential swimming pool made the front page of The Sun?

According to a 1999 report issued by the Institute of Medicine, as many as 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of preventable medical errors. Approximately 34,000 people per year are killed by guns. But is Mr. Rodricks urging a ban on doctors and hospitals?

In 2002, 42,815 people were killed in car accidents. Yet Mr. Rodricks is not urging us to scrap our cars.

Moreover, according to Mr. Levitt, the risk of death per hour of travel in an airplane is equal to that of automobiles. But Mr. Rodricks is not telling us to stay home.

The risk of death by a firearm in this country is minuscule compared with the risk of death from things we take for granted as part of our everyday lives.

Mr. Rodricks should consider the difference between overreacting to a low-risk scenario, because it's gruesome, and underreacting to a high-risk scenario, because the conventional wisdom promotes our complacency.

Salvatore D. Fili


Westminster works to meet water rules

The Sun's editorial regarding the water situation in Westminster requires clarification ("Westminster's water woes," Sept. 29).

City officials have long recognized the importance of safe, reliable water sources and the critical role prudent growth management plays in conserving limited resources.

The Maryland Department of the Environment's recent opinion that Westminster's water supply is insufficient for growth is a result of the new way MDE calculates water capacity.

And it should be noted that until last year, Westminster's growth and water supply management met MDE requirements, as is demonstrated by MDE's approval of all our prior growth decisions.

Westminster has limited growth for years and has been working with MDE to further tighten growth until our water supply meets MDE's new criteria for sufficient capacity.

After the 2002 drought, MDE recognized that the way it regulated water systems was inadequate, and Westminster happened to be one of the first systems to undergo capacity analysis using the new criteria.

However, we have the same amount of water and the same modest growth rate as before.

As in the past, Westminster continues to work collaboratively with MDE, Carroll County government and adjacent municipalities to find workable, economically feasible solutions to a complex and very expensive regional problem.

Thomas K. Ferguson


The writer is the mayor of Westminster.

Population growth taxes our resources

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