RESTART plan could threaten prison security

C. Fraser Smith's column "Ehrlich's progressive new philosophy on prisons" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 8), fails to recognize a serious flaw with the governor's plan. Although rehabilitation is a worthy goal, the most important issue for inmates and correctional officers is safety. Yet the governor and Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services Mary Ann Saar intend to pay for the bulk of the RESTART program by cutting correctional officer posts in the prisons.

Interestingly, one year ago, Ms. Saar argued that Maryland prisons needed 657 new correctional officers. Now, while looking for funds for RESTART, she says that there is a surplus of 218 officers. Although Ms. Saar points to a study of correctional officer posts, AFSCME members can't help but think it is more than coincidental that the new numbers come at a time when she is looking for funds to support the RESTART program.

The reality is that the inmate population continues to grow, exceeding the planned capacity in many prisons. And according to the Department of Legislative Services in Annapolis, the number of inmates whose major offense was a violent crime increased more than 15 percent from 1993 to 2002.

Even before the announcement about RESTART, correctional officers raised concerns about the reductions of post coverage and the increased danger.

Our members fear more violence is to come.

Efforts to provide education and rehabilitation are welcomed by correctional officers. But thousands of correctional officers risk their lives daily to protect inmates from each other while trying to also stay safe themselves.

These front-line employees ask: "Where's the money to do both?"

Zachary Ramsey


The writer is executive director of Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Parents pay a cost for school disruption

As a parent of a Baltimore student, I know of one thing the city school system is successful at -- and that is making life difficult for parents. Not only are there numerous professional development days and canceled days for snow, ice and rain on which parents have to either schedule days off from work or scramble at last minute for child-care arrangements, but now the school allows union voting in the middle of school days.

The teacher voting on Feb. 12, which began at noon, was seemingly scheduled at the last minute with little advance notice to parents ("City teachers reject pay cut," Feb. 13).

The voting could have been scheduled during a professional development day or any evening at a school or public facility. The voting event disrupted the workday for thousands of parents.

This inconsiderate action by the city schools and the Baltimore Teachers Union put many people's jobs at risk because they had to take unplanned leave.

Bob Maddox


Debates on marriage obscure real issues

I, too, wish to express moral outrage ("Mass gay union compromise stalls," Feb. 13).

Putting aside for the moment the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, millions in this country are struggling to survive on poverty level wages with few or no benefits, increasing numbers of individuals and families are using soup kitchens to get through the month, children are without health insurance, homelessness is on the rise, cities and states are fighting to stretch ever-smaller budgets for basic human services while the rich enjoy unprecedented tax breaks.

Meanwhile legislatures across the country are tied up arguing about whether to deny a small minority the right to legitimize their love?

Yes, I see a reason in all of this to be a bit morally outraged.

Kathryn J. Henderson


Slots aren't healthy for our finances

The decision is simple with respect to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s wish to place slots at Maryland racetracks ("Pro-slots donations probed by U.S.," Feb. 15).

Gambling one's money in slot machines is not a healthy or productive use of one's time or financial resources. Does the governor wish to promote the unhealthy use of their finances by the citizens of Maryland?

There are definitely more creative, intelligent and productive alternatives to increase the tax revenues of the state.

Let's not resort to unwise choices for short-term gain.

Susan Forbes Frost


No evidence Hussein helped the terrorists

I must differ with the writers of the two letters titled "The war began when America was attacked" (letters, Feb. 8).

Specifically, the writer of one of the letters writes "If ... liberal pinheads had their way, Saddam Hussein and his sons would still be handing out money and weapons to al-Qaida" and the other letter argues that the war in Iraq "was brought home to every American on Sept. 11, 2001."

But it is imperative that we keep some facts straight.

First, there has been no proof of a connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-Qaida (although al-Qaida may be running rampant in Iraq now).

Second, there is no evidence, and no reason to believe, that Mr. Hussein had anything to do with the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

I do not, however, blame the writers for their errors. The Bush administration for more than one year has done everything it can to muddle the facts, issuing misleading statements (if not telling outright lies) to hoodwink the American people into supporting their predetermined and misguided adventure.

Jim Fortier

Ellicott City

Douglass would add dignity to courthouse

Rather than using firearms on the battlefield, Frederick Douglass used his exceptional intelligence and presence to fight the war on slavery with his words and ideas and pushed hard early on for enlistment of black troops during the Civil War ("The Douglass debate," editorial, Feb. 11).

To say that he neither served nor died for his country is shortsighted; he devoted his entire life to his country.

The Talbot County courthouse grounds would be graced and dignified by a statue of Douglass, and the council members should rise to the honor of making it happen.

Ferebee Streett Thulman


Douglass did more to serve the nation

Talbot County's refusal to erect a statue commemorating Frederick Douglass on its capitol lawn is just one more proof that some things should not be left to the discretion of local jurisdictions ("Plans to honor abolitionist prove divisive in Talbot Co.," Feb. 9).

Looking at the big picture it is obvious that Douglass served our country in a much nobler capacity than any of those currently memorialized on Easton's courthouse lawn.

Placing his statue in any other place is not only unconscionable but stupid and short-sighted.

Ingrid Krause


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