Letters To The Editor


April 27, 2008

Quality services cut delinquency

As The Sun's article "Youths lost in juvenile system" (April 22) suggests, the state Department of Juvenile Services is beginning to address critical components of its broken system, including the monitoring of youths under its custody and the training and support its staff members need to do their jobs effectively.

However, adequate monitoring and staff training alone will not have the desired outcomes if the young people on probation are not linked with quality community-based services.

In a recent review of juvenile court files in Baltimore, Advocates for Children and Youth found that youths are routinely arrested and rearrested without being provided with meaningful services.

This amounts to a lost opportunity that helps create a cycle of delinquency, or even death.

However, cost-efficient and highly effective services do exist.

For instance, Multisystemic Therapy and Functional Family Therapy are in-home, community-based service models that can empower families and young people with the skills and resources they need to address the difficulties they will face with their families, peers, schools and neighborhoods.

These practices have been shown to reduce rearrests and out-of-home placements, improve family functioning and decrease mental health problems for juvenile offenders.

They cost a fraction of detention and incarceration.

If such services are provided to youths while they are on probation, this can change the direction of a young person's life, and thereby save taxpayers money and improve public safety.

Angela Conyers Johnese, Baltimore

The writer is juvenile justice director for Advocates for Children and Youth.

DJS finally faces long-standing woes

I give great respect and kudos to Maryland Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore, who was appointed last year by Gov. Martin O'Malley to turn the Department of Juvenile Services around.

And in the case of the recent review of DJS cases, the bad news is, in fact, the good news ("Failures of DJS anger officials," April 23).

The commitment to fulfill the department's mission requires introspection by the agency. And, finally, after decades, the department is led by an experienced professional who won't settle for less than the best, even at the expense of airing dirty linen before the world and the legislature.

The willingness of this administration to suffer the bad news, and the slings and arrows from those who wish to castigate it, yet support the efforts of Mr. DeVore and put the state's money where its mouth is to reform the department, is more than simply refreshing.

It also bodes well for the futures of so many young people who still have a chance and for our community at large.

Rex Smith, Silver Spring

The writer is a former director of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and the current president and CEO of Hearts & Homes for Youth.

Bus attacks show something wrong

I empathize with Circuit Judge David W. Young's expressions of incredulity and dismay over the recent bus assaults ("Girl, 15, gets jail in bus assault," April 24).

On April 22, I was traveling inbound on the No. 19 bus at midafternoon.

When the bus stopped at Eager Street to discharge and take on passengers, I was struck in the side of the head by a fist thrown through an open window. I never saw my assailant.

Echoing Judge Young, I say, "I just wonder what has gone so wrong, so wrong."

Patrick J. Griffin, Baltimore

Kick troublemakers out of city schools

I am a retired elementary school principal, and I would be the last one to give up on any student.

However, reality must be faced. And it is obvious there are two distinct groups of students attending Baltimore schools. There are students who really want to learn and there are thugs ("Dixon, Alonso host school safety session for 300 teachers," April 22).

The thugs couldn't care less about learning or allowing the teachers to do their job.

Teachers cannot be effective in an atmosphere of fear. It makes no difference how much money is spent on low-performing schools. For schools to be effective, they must be safe.

Thugs need to know they cannot get away with assaulting teachers and fellow students. They must be removed swiftly and permanently from the regular school.

If they have to go into a boot camp program, so be it.

I would say to the schools CEO and the school board, you have a bear by the tail. You must step up and take charge.

Teachers and students deserve much better.

Denzil Minyard, Parkville

Do more to exploit energy resources

In the column "Candidates' ideas range from bad to bad" (Commentary, April 22), Steve Chapman takes the presidential candidates to task for not offering sound energy policy.

I find it disturbing that nowhere in the column does Mr. Chapman suggest that we do the one thing that might actually resolve the fears of high energy costs and shortages of energy: Do more to develop our energy resources.

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