Inaccurate labels stigmatize city kids


July 25, 2008

I was deeply disturbed by the tone of The Sun's article "Police hunt for 'baddest' kids" (July 10), which seems to support an obnoxious initiative to "get the baddest of the bad" city youths off our streets.

The constant labeling of our youths as criminal or dangerous should be taken as offensive not only by the youths themselves but also by all Baltimore residents.

By describing these young people as the "most dangerous kids in the city," the article may lead readers to believe that it is talking about murderers and rapists of some sort when, in fact, the group of young people being targeted in this "warrant initiative" includes many status offenders with technical violations, minor offenses and failures to appear for court.

I think people should be more interested in learning why and how these children are being lost in a system, or rather a department, whose sole responsibility is to provide services to these youths.

Indeed, I find it almost comical that The Sun printed a quote from state Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore saying, "A lot of kids were surprised to see us knock on that door ... asking them to be accountable for their conduct."

Mr. DeVore was absolutely correct to describe many of the youths and families as "surprised" by the knock on their door, as it is apparent that no other DJS personnel, case managers or service providers had attempted to reach the youths they were supposed to be working with.

Clearly the children are not hiding if the Police Department merely had to knock on their front door to find them.

Let's also educate readers about the fact that there are huge racial disparities involved in the youths who are being arrested and detained in this city.

African-Americans make up about 75 percent of the city's youths, but they represent a staggering 99 percent to 100 percent of those detained in the city's juvenile facilities.

The Sun's article notes that the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center "is routinely at or near its capacity of 144 boys."

While the facility does often house such numbers, it has never been staffed to serve 144 youths. It has the staff to serve approximately half that number at any given time.

It is then fair to raise this question: If we were overcrowding a facility operating under such poor conditions with anyone other than young black males, would we then see the child in danger rather than the dangerous child?

Samantha K. Mellerson, Baltimore

The writer is the juvenile justice coordinator for the Family League of Baltimore City Inc.

Let market drive energy innovation

The Sun's editorial "Thinking green" (July 21) directed much praise toward Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens.

The editorial states that Mr. Gore's plan "offers the best chance to give the United States a brighter energy future and a cleaner environment."

While a bright energy future and a cleaner environment would be great, the "high standard" set by Mr. Gore's plan would require our free-market economy to reconstruct its industrial energy foundations in an extremely short time.

What The Sun calls Mr. Gore's "ambitious proposal" shows a disturbing lack of concern for the effects that the government regulation required to make such a proposal work would have on an already fragile economy.

Similarly, Mr. Pickens' wind energy plan is supported by many flawed arguments. If implemented, it would also position him to receive generous government subsidies and pad his wallet with taxpayer money.

Like any other entrepreneur, Mr. Pickens should be forced to take the same market risks as other individuals investing in a product with a similarly uncertain future. By aiding Mr. Pickens with federal subsidies, the government in effect puts that risk on the taxpayers.

Once the research and development of wind energy and other sustainable energies make them economically viable and efficient, the private sector will allow a gradual transformation of the energy market.

Justin Levitas, Baltimore

We can't forswear use of fossil fuels

I think Mike Tidwell, the writer of the column "Let's make history again" (Commentary, July 23), is in dire need of a new prescription to cure his energy myopia.

While it is surely a good idea to take as much advantage of offshore wind energy as possible, that does not give us the luxury of ignoring other, less environmentally friendly energy sources.

We remain a mobile society in a vast land, and we are irrevocably tied to our planes, trains and automobiles.

Until we can harness wind or solar power to turn the wheels of our vehicles, we will have to use oil - unless, of course, someone devises a Back to the Future mechanism to convert trash to energy or a way to harness the hot air expended in Congress.

W. C. Harsanyi, Pasadena

More clubs, bars won't revive city

I agree completely with the letter that criticized the shortsighted proposal to make it easier for bars and clubs to have live entertainment in residential city neighborhoods ("Night life already disrupts the city," July 21)

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