March 28, 2009

Prisons must focus on rehabilitation

Recently, The Baltimore Sun recommended toughening Maryland's good time credit system because some prisoners do not deserve access, citing one "poster boy" anecdote ("Doing the time," editorial, March 17). We agree that review of the system may be useful but for entirely different reasons.

The Sun's call for alarm about good time credits is unwarranted. Maryland, with its rate of 74 percent of actual sentence served, is far above the national average of 55 percent. Even if this were not the case, research has shown that people released because of good time credits are no more likely to recidivate than those who serve full sentences.

Indeed, the true cause for alarm is the failure of the U.S. criminal justice system to rehabilitate the people we imprison. Under our system, the cycle of incarceration is almost inevitable because there are inadequate vocational, educational, counseling, mental health and drug treatment opportunities available to prisoners.

Imprisoning people longer is also expensive. The state estimates that it costs roughly $22,000 a year to incarcerate someone. We can pay to incarcerate people longer or we can use those funds to create meaningful programming and adequate staffing in prisons.

Wendy Hess, Baltimore

The writer, an attorney for the Public Justice Center, is a member of the Correctional Reform Section Council of the Maryland State Bar Association.

'Anti-Zionism' isn't always hate

The column "Anti-Zionism is hate" (Commentary, March 22) is simplistic and misleading. There is more than one kind of Zionism.

On the one hand, Judea Pearl is right to say that it is hateful to oppose Zionism that supports the existence of Israel as a nation.

On the other hand, it is legitimate to oppose a form of Zionism that promotes seizing Palestinian land to expand Israel's internationally recognized borders.

By not distinguishing forms of Zionism, the author cloaks Israeli colonialism under the mantle of Israel's right to exist.

Bob Krasnansky, Ellicott City

Judea Pearl does his part to stigmatize legitimate criticism or debate about Israel when he conflates "anti-Zionism" with hate without defining what the term covers. Thus generalized, "anti-Zionism" condemns any critical view of Israel that does not adhere to nationalistic myths that condone and justify Israel's ethnic aggression and expansion. Further, such a misguided view can be used to slander anyone who challenges the U.S. government's unconditional support of Israel, making a more pragmatic U.S. policy less likely.

John G. Bailey, Edgemere

Restaurant owners wrong on foie gras

The Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia should not have been vandalized ("In a lather over liver," March 24). It was wrong and it is against the law.

The owners' pledge to serve even more foie gras, however, reveals their arrogance, lack of class and total lack of compassion for birds having pipes shoved down their throats and being force-fed several times a day.

I hope that the publicity that the restaurant is receiving will enlighten people as to the barbaric way foie gras is produced.

Ann Roberts, Lutherville

Is strawberry milk a healthful choice?

I was flabbergasted to read Kate Shatzkin's "Eat This Instead" in Monday's Health section (March 23). Has it really gotten to the point where the "healthful" choice for parents is picking strawberry milk over vanilla milk? If parents are already forgoing real milk in favor of food-like substances (each containing an average of 30 grams of sugar per serving) that are the equivalent of an ice cream cone, does it really matter if their kids have a vanilla cone or a strawberry one?

Brigitte Jacobson, Baltimore

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