April 22, 2009

Jamming wrong way to curb prison calls

In the editorial "Criminal calling" (April 16), The Baltimore Sun gives short shrift to the very real interference caused by cell phone jamming to wireless devices used by public safety officials and consumers.

Contrary to the editorial's claim that jamming will "protect public safety," some of the nation's leading public safety organizations, including the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International and the National Emergency Number Association, have said jamming is not the answer to prison security because of the service disruptions it causes to fire and police responders and consumers.

Even setting aside the fact that cell phone jamming is illegal, the editorial also ignored a key the issue about wireless phones in prisons: How are these phones getting into the prisons?

Maryland may penalize individuals who smuggle or possess a cell phone in prison, but unless this law is strictly enforced, there will be little fear of its consequences.

Unfortunately, a few people working in Maryland's prisons believe that trading cash for contraband is worth the risk for a misdemeanor offense that carries less than three years in prison under Maryland law.

The wireless industry views phones inside prisons as criminal tools and has no interest in seeing inmates use them.

But the solution requires addressing the supply and demand for contraband cell phones in prisons, not jamming wireless signals.

Brian Josef, Washington

The writer is director of regulatory affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association.

It's time to confront Md. budget woes

The editorial "Budget bobble" (April 14), in which The Baltimore Sun gives a lukewarm reception to the state's $13.8 billion operating budget, reveals muddled thinking.

The editors find it prudent to continue "a level of spending that is not sustainable unless the economy reverses course" although conservatives calling for less spending "may yet be proven correct." Not to worry, say the editors, crisis management is always an option later on.

The fact of the matter is that this state's level of spending has long been unsustainable. Yet government at all levels, like many individuals, seemed to function under the silly notion that home prices (and property tax revenue) would double every 10 years.

Even sillier is the idea that we'll all be riding that trend again soon.

Be that as it may, the editors sit on the fence, the governor sits on his hands, and the legislature, as Ron Smith might say, "kicks the can down the road."

Mark Brown, Baltimore

Ehrlich's attitude prevented progress

Ron Smith's column "Under state's one-party rule, taxpayer beware" (Commentary, April 17) should have stopped short of blaming politics for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s failure to win approval of slots legislation.

As a lifelong Republican, perhaps I should be supporting Mr. Smith's comments.

But what I remember of Mr. Ehrlich's position on legislation was his "It's my way or the highway" attitude.

I certainly do not remember him seeking to reach across the aisle to find the best solution.

William F. Smouse, Millersville

Following the law is judge's main role

Laurence Hurley quotes White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' statement in March that judges should have "the ability to empathize and walk in someone's shoes" ("Liberal shift," Commentary, April 20).

I agree that this is a good quality. But it is more critical for a judge to get the law right and then follow it.

Jim Astrachan, Baltimore

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