Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 26, 2007

Culture of violence pervades prisons

The Sun's editorial "Mishandling evidence" (Dec. 20) sheds light on an area of significant need and concern - the need to end prison violence and change the culture that allows it to flourish.

The end to prison violence will occur only with a commitment from the state - a commitment that was made on paper during the 2007 legislative session.

Legislators voted to convene a Prison Violence Task Force charged with looking at this issue and submitting a preliminary report by Dec. 31.

This task force has not convened its first meeting, and as a result, the deadline will come and go while the conditions that motivated the planned report remain unabated.

While the case that prompted recent articles by Greg Garland (e.g., "Officer left prison with knife sought in fatal stabbing, records show," Dec. 19) and The Sun's editorial are tragic, the problems they expose are not surprising given the lack of commitment to the issue.

Until the state makes a sincere effort to look at and address the violence and conditions of confinement that exist behind prison walls, we will continue to endure the impact of a culture of violence and anger for which the community will pay a price in the long run.

Kimberly Haven Sally Dworak-Fisher Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, the executive director of Justice Maryland and an attorney for the Public Justice Center.

Few city dwellers face murder danger

Now that the city of Baltimore has exceeded last year's murder tally, it is time for The Sun and others to admit that aside from the relatively few innocent victims caught in the crossfire, the vast majority of murders in this city are drug-related, and that the murders are a symptom of a largely unaddressed metropolitan health problem known as addiction ("277th killing in '07 is grim milestone," Dec. 21).

In the meantime, the majority of city residents go about their business in productive, drug-free neighborhoods and are not really impacted by this spike in violence.

It is a gross distortion, a fraud and a copout for the media to continually sell newspapers by scaring their largely suburban public by implying that the average Joe is subject to random killing by just being within the Baltimore's city limits.

There is nothing random about this killing spree, and the impact of such articles is bad for commerce, bad for neighborhoods and bad for the image of the entire region.

Carl Hyman

Baltimore

The writer is a former president of the Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association.

Caring for killers at public expense

According to The Sun's article "Lethal Practice" (Oct. 22, 2006), "Sentenced to death for the 1983 contract killings of two Pikesville motel employees in an attempt to silence witnesses in a federal drug case, [Vernon Lee] Evans, 57, has sued Maryland correctional officials, alleging that the state's lethal injection procedures" are unconstitutional.

So I would ask death penalty abolitionists this: If your son and daughter were gunned down, would you prefer that their murderer, instead of being put to death for his crime, should be housed, clothed, fed and provided medical care for the rest of his life at a cost to the taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars a year?

If you say yes, please move to New Jersey ("Death penalty revoked in N.J.," Dec. 18).

George L. Darley Jr.

Glen Burnie

Holiday lights aren't sectarian spectacle

As I read "Schools walk holiday line" (Dec. 23), I was disgusted by the small-mindedness of the Owings Mills teacher who feels that a lighted outdoor tree at Carney Elementary School is a religious symbol of Christmas, a display that violates his religious freedom as well as the division of church and state.

At the same time, I was heartened by the response of school Principal Eileen Roberta. As she said, "It's just lights on a tree. Personally, I don't think lighting a tree is supporting any particular religion. It's an activity. It's a festive season, so it's a festive activity. It's not a religious activity."

Ms. Roberta is correct. While festively lighted trees may appear during the months in which various light-themed celebrations take place, many of them religious (e.g., Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa), they certainly are not symbols of any religious faith or doctrine.

Deborah Mance

Street

Respect for rituals shows real tolerance

I am an orthodox Jew, and I was extremely troubled by the article "Schools walk a holiday line" (Dec 23).

My grandmother (also an orthodox Jew) was a first-grade schoolteacher in the Los Angeles public school system, and I have vivid memories of watching her prepare Christmas and Easter projects for her young students.

I once asked her how she could feel comfortable working on these creations if she herself did not celebrate these holidays. She answered that not celebrating these days did not mean we should not respect others and their holidays.

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