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Drugs bring about 'urban mortuaries' Burden for blacks aired at conference


The nation's cities are "urban mortuaries" for black families and drugs are the "embalming fluid" that prevents addicts from understanding the depth of their social, economic, physical and mental plight, a prison administrator yesterday told participants in a substance abuse conference at Coppin State College.

The devastation caused by addiction is highly evident in the black communities where it has become the "Pied Piper" of crime, said LaMont W. Flanagan, commissioner of the Baltimore City Detention Center.

"Drugs come to America not by invasion but by invitation. Addiction is public health enemy No. 1. And it's an awesome adversary," Mr. Flanagan said. "Once the citadels of the hopeful, [cities] have been transformed to the wailing walls of the hopeless, the emblem of social distress.

"African-Americans, representing about 13 percent of the United States' population, are the benefactors of decaying cities whose nucleus has been permeated by social disorder, economic deprivation and addiction -- the angel of death."

Mr. Flanagan was one of several speakers at the sixth annual Substance Abuse Education and Prevention Conference at Coppin. The theme of the conference, which resumes today, is "The African-American Family: Conquering Substance Abuse Now and in the 21st Century."

The conference addressed a variety of topics involving substance abuse, including drugs and violence, their impact on the African-American community, drug policy and public housing, and problems in the African-American family with treatment needs.

Of the 304 homicides committed in Baltimore last year, 142 were judged by police to have been drug-related. Handguns were used in 202 of the slayings, and more than 90 percent of the victims were African-Americans.

"We're already ahead of last year's pace at this time," said Sgt.Roger Nolan, a city homicide detective who headed a workshop, "Drugs and Violence: Their Impact on the African-American Community."

Sergeant Nolan said the city's high assault rate also concerns police.

"A lot of murders are not intended to be murders," he said, adding that the violence often begins as an assault and escalates.

Mr. Flanagan, who has headed the Detention Center since the state took over the facility in June, said the federal government must increase funding and expand the development of drug intervention programs.

"We must stop the children from growing up with little stability and lots of anger," he said. "There are 6,143,412 children [in the United States] who are not living in a household headed by at least one parent. The parents of these children are either drug addicts, dead or incarcerated.

Mr. Flanagan added: "These children are known in sociology as the zero parent children. African-American children account for 10.6 percent of them."

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