Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 14, 2008

Facility likely to defy DJS reforms

The Sun's editorial "A return to Bowling Brook" (Aug. 6) cautions the state, as it moves toward reopening Bowling Brook Preparatory School in Carroll County, to proceed in accordance with the Department of Juvenile Services' reform guidelines calling for "small" 48-bed treatment programs.

Yet it appears unlikely that such an approach will be followed.

Rite of Passage, the Nevada-based company that has applied for a license to run the Bowling Brook program, operates facilities in Western states that serve hundreds of children; its Ridge View facility in Colorado can house 500 youths.

Bowling Brook occupies a 16-acre campus with a facility that can house more than 170 youths. And the company's executive director for Maryland, James Bednark, made his intentions clear when he was quoted in The Sun's article "Youth facility in Carroll Co. could reopen" (June 25) saying he would start with 48 beds and then "proceed as things warrant," noting that Bowling Brook "was built as a larger campus, and there are opportunities that come from having larger numbers."

But such "opportunities" for the for-profit Rite of Passage company would not provide the best opportunities for Maryland's youths. Because state dollars available to reform DJS programs are limited, money invested in expanding the number of beds in residential facilities would undermine DJS' budding efforts to reallocate dollars to community-based services.

The data on these practices, including Functional Family Therapy, Multisystemic Therapy and Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care, show that they can reduce rearrest rates by 50 percent and save states money while improving the lives of children and families.

While Maryland needs some residential beds in its juvenile justice system, DJS reforms should be guided by the wisdom of the 2001 U.S. Surgeon General Report on Youth Violence: "Residential programs, interventions that take place in psychiatric or correctional institutions ... show little promise of reducing subsequent crime and violence in delinquent youths."

Maryland should invest in more effective strategies and not keep repeating its mistakes.

Cathy Surace, Baltimore

The writer is managing attorney for the Maryland Disability Law Center. The letter was also endorsed by representatives of the other groups that comprise the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition.

Renewable energy the real solution

All of us have felt the sting of high fuel costs over the last year. But what are our politicians doing to fix the problem ("Sparring over the tire gauge," Aug. 7)?

While world oil production has never been higher, vastly increased demand for oil from nations such as China has driven up prices. Unless this demand slows (which is unlikely), we won't see major adjustments in oil costs.

Politicians such as Sen. John McCain have promoted lifting the prohibition on offshore drilling in some areas as a way to alleviate our energy crisis. Mr. McCain has even linked Sen. Barack Obama's earlier opposition to expanding offshore drilling to our high oil prices.

Distressingly, such ideas have gained traction. According a recent poll, 69 percent of Americans now support increased offshore drilling and 51 percent believe doing so will reduce the cost of gasoline within a year.

However, experts at the Department of Energy have found that it would take about nine years for offshore drilling to increase our oil supply at all and that even then the price cut would be "insignificant."

We need to realize that oil will never be cheap again and other solutions are needed.

Last month, former Vice President Al Gore called for 100 percent of our energy to be generated by clean, renewable sources within 10 years. A witness before Congress recently testified that there are no significant technological or engineering hurdles to making this happen.

All our country needs to do so is the political will.

Mike Specian, Baltimore

No proof Clintons sabotaging Obama

Thomas F. Schaller is correct that Sen. Hillary Clinton cannot be held accountable for the possible disruptive behavior of her supporters at the Democratic National Convention ("Clinton backers should put a stop to party disunity," Commentary, Aug. 12).

He is also correct in labeling as political extortion the Clintons' insistence that Sen. Barack Obama help pay off Mrs. Clinton's campaign debts even as he must raise funds for his own campaign.

But Mr. Schaller misses the mark when he alleges that the Clintons are not doing "everything in their power" to elect Mr. Obama.

First, this is a rather untimely judgment to make when the presumptive nominee is vacationing on the beaches of Hawaii.

And second, Mr. Schaller's contention would be more credible had he cited specific instances in which the Clintons have refused to take on a campaign task or event requested by Mr. Obama.

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