April 06, 2009

Save by cutting drug sentences

Walter Lomax makes an excellent point about releasing nonviolent offenders and saving $33,310 on incarceration per inmate per year ("Unlocking big savings," Commentary, April 1).

However, by limiting the idea to older, parole-eligible prisoners, he does not take it far enough. We could save far more than he projects by ceasing to incarcerate drug users who have never posed a real threat to society.

Using Mr. Lomax's figures, the state could save more than $3 million for every 200 people not given six-month sentences for possessing (not selling) controlled substances.

Drugs do terrible things to people, families, communities and our society, but prison sentences for possession merely compound the problems.

I know that this is a dangerous position for elected officials to support, but perhaps in these financially troubled times, they will do so from the perspective of the budget even if they are not able to do so out of compassion.

Alan L. Katz, Owings Mills

Misconduct erodes our faith in justice

The case against former Sen. Ted Stevens has gone down the drain, draining taxpayers with huge costs, draining Mr. Stevens of his Senate seat and his right to be vindicated in court and, most important, draining the integrity of our judicial system, where government prosecutors apparently lie and cheat in their quest to convict someone rather than to do justice ("U.S. to drop Stevens charges," April 2).

I shudder to think how many average, innocent people without Mr. Stevens' resources are railroaded by such misconduct.

How can we expect our children to develop a moral center if those who lead our nation's justice system have no sense of the meaning of justice?

The answer is that we can't, and it is for this very reason that the elimination of capital punishment in our broken justice system makes sense to me - lest one day I or some other average Joe sit innocently on death row preparing to die, because someone in our judiciary system believes that winning is more important than the truth.

Gary Gamber, Reisterstown

Are local cartoons a thing of the past?

The sad thing for Baltimore about The Baltimore Sun's excellent panel of cartoons on economic difficulties through the decades last Thursday was in the credits.

The ones from 1938, 1974 and 1982 were done by Baltimore Sun cartoonists; the one from 2009 was drawn by someone from Florida. Why? Because The Sun no longer has an editorial cartoonist.

The difficulties of the newspaper business, especially in this economic downturn, are well known, and The Sun is managing them better than most.

But this panel of cartoons is illustrative of yet another great Baltimore institution crumbling after it was sold to out-of-towners - like Alex Brown, Pimlico and the Preakness and, well, the list goes on.

Michael Hill, Baltimore

The writer is a former Baltimore Sun reporter.

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