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Let's not jump to conclusions over who to blame for the city jail scandal

Justice SystemPublic OfficialsMaryland General AssemblyMartin O'Malley

As I assessed the situation at the Baltimore City jail, and the subsequent indictments that came down because of the corruption of a few, I realized that while the rosy portrait painted by Gov. Martin O'Malley may not have been as bright as he would have liked the public to believe, it certainly was nowhere near as gloomy as your recent editorial portrayed it ("O'Malley can't spin his way out of the jail scandal," April 30).

It's easy to point the finger after the hard work has been done; as they say, "hindsight is 20/20." However, as an elected official sworn to uphold the state constitution and analyze situations from all angles, I have a responsibility to not jump to conclusions or throw the baby out with the bathwater. While corrections Secretary Gary D. Maynard should not escape the blame for what has happened on his watch, we should not be so quick in our rush to judgment.

I understand the pressures judges, prosecutors, correctional officers, court and state employees are under. They are consistently asked to do more with less, while being the first to take the blame when things don't go the way we think they should. Yet, with a consistent backlog in the city's judicial system, coupled with the fact that nearly 9,000 prisoners return to Baltimore City every year, we find ourselves in a quandary that can only be fixed with responsible and tempered measures.

It's the responsibility of elected officials to seek justice in situations that may seem clear cut to the naked eye, but are filled with complex nuances that may not have been made privy to the general public. Therefore, I would ask that we withhold the judgment on the effects this situation will have on anyone's political career as we seek to uncover the systematic breakdown that allowed an inmate to have more power over certain corrections officers than their superiors.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Maryland House of Delegates, I will attempt to analyze this situation further to see just how far the corruption went, while figuring out ways to combat such problems in the future.

I ask all citizens concerned about the integrity and administrative procedures of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to contact my office so we can ensure that everyone's voice is heard and that all ideas on how to fix the system's errors are explored.

Frank M. Conaway Jr., Baltimore

The writer, a Democrat, represents Baltimore City's 40th Legislative District in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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