Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 25, 2007

Expand programs for inmate rehab

Anyone involved in the criminal justice system is familiar with its revolving-door dynamic - defendants with little education, little employment history and many arrests and multiple convictions, returning again and again to our criminal courts and our prisons ("Rehab behind bars," editorial, Feb. 19).

Not everyone, however, has the courage and foresight to try to challenge the status quo. But former Secretary of Public Safety and Corrections Mary Ann Saar did.

When Ms. Saar was appointed secretary, she commissioned an independent audit to ensure that the department's resources were being used as effectively as possible.

Based on that audit, she redirected resources to focus on the rehabilitation of inmates in the correctional system. And she tirelessly promoted and lobbied for more resources to institute a truly comprehensive prison reform.

The RESTART program is her proud legacy. But, as The Sun's editorial urges, such "programs need to be expanded, not simply maintained."

Unquestionably, our prisons must be safe for the staff and inmates.

But our policy toward offenders also must be intelligent, compassionate and effective.

Prisons must assist inmates to acquire the skills they need to lead a productive life in the community so that they will not return to crime and prison again - not only for their benefit but for the benefit of the entire community.

I applaud the governor's pledge to fund both increased prison staffing and rehabilitation and training programs.

Both policies are essential.

Susan K. Gauvey

Baltimore

The writer is a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

Consider the value of a victim's life

Gov. Martin O'Malley's argument for abolishing the death penalty ("O'Malley lobbies for repeal," Feb. 22), along with that of the writer of the letter "Execution falters in search for justice" (Feb. 22), stresses that it costs more to execute a person than to keep a prisoner in jail for a lifetime.

But the discussion for or against the death penalty should not be about the cost of execution vs. incarceration; it should be about whether the punishment of death fits the crime of taking a life.

So far all I have heard from the anti-execution crowd is that the death sentence does not deter crime, that we are the only Western nation that still has the death sentence, that there are racial disparities in death sentences, that some prisoners on death row have been found innocent - and now comes the excuse for abolishing the death penalty.

But I do not read or hear from the anti-execution crowd any discussion about why execution is not a fitting punishment for a person who criminally takes another person's life.

Is a convicted person's life more valuable than the murder victim's life?

Let us have an intelligent discussion on this question before moving further on abolishing the death penalty.

Ron Wirsing

Havre de Grace

Principled position against executions

Thank God - and I mean that - that we have a governor who is taking the moral and ethical (not to mention economic) stand against the death penalty ("O'Malley lobbies for repeal," Feb. 22).

And thank you, Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Kim McCarthy

Bel Air

The writer is a member of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee.

Peace isn't the way to stop terrorists

God forgive those who believe that the way to peace is to simply refuse to fight ("Clergy speak on Iraq war: `Enough is enough,'" Feb. 22).

They seem to have forgotten that the United States didn't have any troops in Afghanistan or Iraq before we were attacked by terrorists, and that almost 3,000 of our citizens were killed in those attacks in a matter of hours (almost as many Americans as have been killed in Iraq in about four years of fighting).

And who are we fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq? Terrorists.

The same kind of terrorists who attacked us in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

It doesn't make much difference if they're Iraqis or Saudis or Iranians or whatever.

These Islamist terrorists are out to kill us.

And you don't stop terrorists by talking nice to them or burying your head in the sand or hiding under the covers.

Richard Seymour

Baltimore

Contacting students can cut truancy rate

Sara Neufeld's excellent article on efforts to combat truancy involving the mock court program and the Baltimore Truancy Assessment Center clarify the significance of this problem and offer examples of two interventions that appear to help ("Tracking down truants," Feb. 18).

The Social Work Community Outreach Service of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore also endeavors, each day, to work with children who have chronically high absenteeism, their families and school personnel to reduce truancy.

Our preliminary data indicate that 85 percent of the public school students whom we can engage enough to have at least four sessions with our social workers during an academic year maintain a 90 percent or better attendance rate.

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