Saturday Mailbox


May 19, 2007

Young killer belongs in the adult system

Your editorial "Two wrongs" (May 9) does not include important facts that led prosecutors to handle the Devon T. Richardson case in the adult system. Records presented publicly in this murder case reflect that Devon was committed to the Department of Juvenile Services at the time of the murder and was already placed in a community home commitment program offering intensive therapy and intervention because of a prior adjudication.

Records introduced at the transfer hearing indicate that Devon consistently failed to take advantage of these services and rehabilitation. A court medical report suggested that the juvenile justice system had exhausted all possible interventions and treatments and that attempts to use out-of-home placements had proved futile, and therefore adult prosecution was recommended by the professional psychiatric court staff. The message to prosecutors and the court was clear, that there was no additional service, treatment or rehabilitation left to offer Devon in the juvenile justice system.

Devon's plea to second-degree murder is in the interest of justice.

The real issue is what is needed to rehabilitate and punish youthful, violent offenders such as Devon. For many years, I have advocated for a youthful offender facility where treatment and rehabilitation would be provided to violent youthful offenders, but with the proper confinement and punishment needed in the interest of public safety.

Maryland needs a facility to accommodate the growing numbers of violent youthful offenders processed through our courts every year and who straddle our juvenile and criminal justice systems. This facility should separate these violent offenders not only from adults but also from less-violent juveniles.

In a case like this, prosecutors are faced with two options: a short commitment to the Department of Juvenile Services, or an option such as the youthful offender program at the Patuxent Institution, where Devon will have access to treatment, with meaningful incarceration for this tragic crime. The right choice was made.

Patricia C. Jessamy


The writer is state's attorney for Baltimore.

Kudos to St. John's for rankings boycott

Thank you for your article on St. John's College's boycott of the peer-review section of the U.S. News & World Report college rankings ("St. John's boycotts college rankings," May 12).

I particularly enjoyed the quotes from presidents of other colleges in the area. I think that they illustrate well what St. John's President Christopher Nelson may have meant when he said that there is "a real evil" affecting higher education.

St. Mary's College President Jane Margaret O'Brien and Hood College President Ronald Volpe sounded much like politicians afraid of alienating voters, or popularity-hungry schoolchildren refusing to join unless "everybody else is doing it."

I am convinced that most colleges are getting out of the business of human development and into the business of ... maybe just business.

Those other colleges can keep their "intangibles," supposedly measured by the peer-review section of the U.S. News survey. What do you think are the institutional consequences of back-slapping and navel-gazing by these elitist politicos motivated by money and prestige?

Instead of turning to a magazine to tell us how to further develop our minds and human potential, all families ought to be looking to the real substance of the college: the curriculum. The values of an institution are also evident in the way it chooses to spend its money, the way it treats its faculty, staff and students, and the way it uses its influence in the world for good or the alternative.

In my family, we will be looking for a college that believes that the weight of a good education, like the value of a good book or the measure of a human soul, can never be truly quantified.

Corita Stull


Institute a safety tax on monster vehicles

While looking for a small, 40-plus miles per gallon economy vehicle, I quickly ran afoul of the soccer mom's safety threshold: Small economy cars would be crushed in the school pickup line between the monster SUVs.

This is the main conundrum in economizing on our gluttony for gas ("Senate panel OKs fuel economy rise," May 9): Everyone wants bigness for safety at the expense of smallness for economy.

In a future sustainable world, everyone would drive small cars getting 50-plus miles per gallon, or bicycles or scooters. But with today's monster American SUVs, gluttonous drivers tend to buy huge vehicles and thus buy safety at the expense of others.

We need a monster tax on monster vehicles to bring safety and equality into balance and create incentives to move toward smaller, sustainable and safe vehicles.

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