Justice system flaws let offenders go free,...


Justice system flaws let offenders go free, spoils police work

Regarding the article "Seemingly solid case evaporates" (Feb. 4):

Once again, the criminal justice system has failed its constituents, and two alleged criminals are free to continue their chosen trade.

These gentlemen are repeat offenders, and if true to form, will most certainly repeat again.

Apparently, several factors came to bear on this travesty of justice. Everything from an incompetent state's attorney and her incompetent deputies, to judges who just won't participate, resulted in freeing these men.

If we truly had a criminal justice system, all the players would be in sync with the problem, and all would pull together to avoid such disgraceful acts as freeing these men.

Surely the judges, above almost anyone else, know of the horrendous backlog, and they should want to do whatever is necessary to dispose of those cases involving armed robbers, murderers and other dangerous felons. Apparently, one judge felt the need to attend a seminar rather than put those criminals away for their misdeeds.

Those who live in the surrounding counties shouldn't gloat at the city's failure. Who knows where freed felons will perpetrate their next crime?

Another question: Where is Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier on this issue? Should his officers continue to risk their lives to apprehend dangerous armed felons, only to see them released because of incompetence and malfeasance on the part of prosecutors and the courts? And, if so, why? Where is their support?

Of course, the officers need to continue to do their jobs. And, just as important, they need their commissioner to let others in this system know that he does not appreciate the unnecessary risks his officers incur because of incompetence.

Robert Lee DiStefano, Abingdon

The writer is a retired major of the Baltimore City Police Department.

Correct justice problems at the early stages

I have read Neal R. Peirce's Opinion Commentary ("Poignant letters from American jails," Feb. 2) regarding deplorable prison conditions and overcrowding and have followed the recent Sun articles on clogged courts dismissing serious cases. One step toward a solution to these problems is before the Maryland General Assembly.

The "smart courts" bill, as explained in Doug Colbert's Perspective article ("Attorneys at bail hearing would unclog the court system," Jan. 17) would help alleviate the overcrowding and stress on the criminal justice system from the beginning by providing for public defenders and prosecutors at bail review.

More than nine out of 10 of the 210,000 individuals arrested last year were prosecuted in District Court. As the caseload of nonviolent misdemeanors swells, providing lawyers at the bail hearings would save taxpayer dollars by preventing the expensive incarceration of people for one or two months before their trials.

Mr. Peirce points out that incarceration demeans people's dignity and self-respect.

Although he targets longer-term violent offenders in his piece, minor offenders are affected, too.

Baltimoreans and their families become embittered against a system that jails them before trial for offenses such as passing off an out-of-date light rail ticket, driving on a suspended license or stealing six sausages.

In addition to the negative psychological consequences, poor and working-class people are forced to spend 30 to 60 days in jail, they risk losing their jobs, their family and support systems are strained and they often are forced to pay bail bondsmen money that should go to their families.

Many of these people, not to mention their relatives and employers, would benefit from having concerned prosecutors and defense attorneys analyze and negotiate, which would serve society better through pretrial release.

Jason D. Tulley, Baltimore

Unsettling, inaccurate depiction of racetrack

The Sun's editorial in support of the application by Chesapeake Motorsports Corp. for an auto racing stadium in our district was unsettling and inaccurate ("Critical turns for auto track," Feb. 4).

The editorial stated that "no one else is interested in this brownfields site." In fact, Chesapeake Beneficial Material Corp. has indicated a strong interest in using the site for a dredge spoils recycling operation.

It is also significant to note that CSX Transportation Inc. has conveyed to County Executive Janet S. Owens and Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari its opposition to the development of the racetrack.

The railroad referred to its incompatibility with proposed residential development. This is an important development; the CSX land would have provided contiguous parking for the racetrack.

While the racetrack project may provide additional tax revenues for our county, the additional revenue would be far outweighed by the serious, adverse impact of this development on already congested roads in our district.

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno

Del. Joan Cadden

Del. John R. Leopold

Del. Mary Rosso, Annapolis

Your editorial "Critical turns for auto track" (Feb. 4) contains a factual error. It states that, aside from track developers, "no one else is interested" in the Maryland Port Administration's site along the Patapsco River.

That is patently untrue.

MPA records show that Victory Steel, a fabricator of steel mesh, has a five-year lease for a portion of the site, with an option for five more years. The MPA has also leased part of the site to Bronson Contracting.

When it purchased the land in 1997, the MPA told the state Board of Public works it was negotiating with "several potential maritime-related businesses."

It might also help to check your newspapers archives. A July 15, 1998, Sun article ("Proposal offered instead of track") details a plan to recycle dredge material at the site.

The developer, Chesapeake Beneficial Material Corp., contends that its service would better suit the land, which is adjacent to a dredge disposal site.

Such a use also appears consistent with a 1996 recommendation by the Governor's Port Land Use Task Force that "reuse of dredging material should be addressed as part of the long term for the port."

Nowhere in that influential, 55-page report is it suggested that the Port of Baltimore get into the business of running auto racetracks.

Rebecca Kolberg, Pasadena

Tom Horton is an artist whose canvas is newsprint

Tom Horton is a remarkable artist. He paints his pictures with words on newsprint rather than with oils on canvas. But how glorious are the results.

Whether the topic is the habitat and migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly (Oct. 17, 1997) or the breathtaking account of light emerging from darkness in the bay's winter sky (January 1998), the recent article describing the essence of the bay -- its mud (Jan. 8) -- or his frequent accounts of life on Smith Island, I treasure each of them.

My thanks to you for publishing Mr. Horton's beautiful bay pictures. My thanks also to Mr. Horton for sharing his remarkable journalistic talent with us proud Marylanders.

He makes us appreciate the simple treasures of our life along the bay, regardless of which area of the state is our home.

Lois S. Harrison, Hagerstown

Don't give public funds to nonpublic schools

I am against using public funds to support nonpublic schools ("Why does the governor ignore parochial schools?" Feb. 2, Letters).

As a taxpayer and the parent of two elementary schoolchildren, I am tired of hearing parents complain about the cost of sending their children to nonpublic schools.

If parents choose to send their children to nonpublic schools, they should expect to pay for the extra cost.

All parents are free to send their children to our public schools.

Tax dollars should not be sent to nonpublic schools to pay for textbooks, technology, transportation -- or for anything else.

Maureen M. Larkin, Timonium

To our readers

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Send letters to Letters to the Editor, The Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278-0001. Our fax number for letters is 410-332-6977. The e-mail address is letters@baltsun.com.

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Pub Date: 2/11/99

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