To know what being in jail is like, you have to see it with your own eyes

  • Pictured is the sleeping area in one of the communal cells of the annex building at city jail where juveniles charged as adults are held.
Pictured is the sleeping area in one of the communal cells of… (By Kenneth K. Lam, )
August 12, 2012

Recent reports about juvenile offenders at the Baltimore Detention Center cite Rep.Elijah E. Cummings, state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden and Del. Jill P. Carter as all having complained that theU.S. Department of Justicehasn't conducted promised inspections of conditions at the facility ("Jail oversight said to be lacking," Aug. 6).

But have Messrs. Cummings and McFadden or Ms. Carter ever inspected the jail themselves? As early as the l770s, the prison reformer John Howard said it was imperative for officials to go into prisons on their own.

"I was told that the conditions [there] were fine," Howard wrote in 1776. "However, when I went into the jail, just the countenance of the prisoners told me otherwise."

Certainly Congressman Cummings and the others could supplement their face-to-face observations with interviews of the inmates. Any second-semester criminal justice student at an area community college could suggest an itinerary of things to observe and useful questions to ask. I look forward to hearing what they find.

H.l. Goldstein, Towson

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