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Fund the laws enabling states to review crimes

Having spent nine years in prison - including two on death row - for a crime I did not commit, I know firsthand the importance of the work being done by Baltimore County Detectives Phil Marll and Jimmy Tincher ("Old murder cases being solved at last," June 2).

Ten years after I was exonerated, the authorities were able to identify the man who committed the crime for which I was wrongfully imprisoned.

Despite the fine efforts of detectives such as Mr. Marll and Mr. Tincher, too many crimes remain unsolved and too many law enforcement agencies lack the resources to solve them.

The Innocence Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush last year as part of the larger Justice for All Act, could help address this problem by providing states with funding to defray the cost of post-conviction DNA testing.

Additionally, the Justice for All Act can provide states with funding to reduce their DNA testing backlogs.

Now Congress needs to fully fund this law so that communities across the country can be confident that innocent people do not languish in prison - or even on death row - while the guilty remain free.

Kirk Bloodsworth


The writer is a program officer for the Justice Project.

The real shame is lack of health care

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer is correct: It's a shame to pay more than $100 million for prisoners' health care when there are law-abiding citizens without access to care ("State's costs for inmates' health care could rise 60%," June 2).

But the shame is not on the prisoners. If we can't see them as the humans they are, we can at least keep in mind that if they receive adequate care, the prisoners will end up returning to their families and the community with their diseases cured or under control.

The real shame is that we do not have universal health care in this rich country, for prisoners and law-abiding citizens alike.

Kathryn Henderson


The war on drugs costs families dearly

Aurie Hall of the Open Society Institute's Criminal Justice Program is to be commended for making the case for drug treatment ("Breaking free," Opinion * Commentary, June 1).

A study conducted by the RAND Corp. found that every additional dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs. But there is far more at stake than tax dollars. The drug war does not promote family values in the way that some people would have us believe.

Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness, addiction and delinquency. And not only do children lose out, society as a whole does, too.

Incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders alongside hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing them a taxpayer-funded education in antisocial behavior.

Turning drug users into unemployable ex-cons is a senseless waste of tax dollars.

It's time to declare peace in the failed drug war and begin treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health problem it is.

Destroying the futures and families of citizens who make unhealthy choices doesn't benefit anyone.

Robert Sharpe


The writer is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.

Work experience has lifetime benefits

The Sun's article about Nicole Getz illustrates how employment opportunities for those still in high school can be personally rewarding ("Working students show their mettle," June 1).

As a Congressional Budget Office report issued late last year verifies, high school students are able to invest a moderate amount of their time into work without necessarily undermining their academic commitments. Those job experiences, the report found, can have a positive impact on a student's subsequent earnings in young adulthood.

Ms. Getz and others like her, therefore, receive a crucial head start when it comes to productive work lives.

Beyond that, however, we all benefit from younger employees who are not only motivated but well-prepared to help take on the national economic challenges that lie ahead.

Bob Cullen


Ground-rent disputes take years to resolve

In "Home lost over ground rent" (June 2), reporters Jamie Smith Hopkins and Lorraine Mirabella distorted the law.

Everyone who buys a property in Baltimore is told that he or she must pay a ground rent, when that is applicable. In order to start an ejectment proceeding, the rent must be six months past due and a 30-day letter must be sent, with proof of mailing, followed by a 45-day notice letter sent by registered mail to the homeowner and the settlement company.

Only then is one eligible to file a lawsuit, which after service of process will get to court in about six to eight months, at which time the court must determine that "there is no legal justification for failure to pay" the rent.

After all of that, the owner has six months to make up the past-due rents.

So what The Sun presented as a six-month process really takes about two years.

Ralph Laurence Sapia


The writer is a lawyer who works on real estate transactions.

Buybacks won't stem the tide of firearms

The Baltimore Police Department's $100,000 gun buyback program strikes me as a farcical attempt to control the flow of firearms ("In buying back guns, police run low on cash," June 3.)

Even with unlimited funds, flushing out the enormous cache of guns owned by area hoodlums seems hopeless.

Considering how relatively easy it is to purchase a gun, the only step that might spell progress in combating Baltimore's huge murder toll would be imposition of mandatory controls covering every sale and transfer of a firearm. But that is not likely to happen.

Standing alone, buybacks will never make a significant dent in the gun traffic.

Albert E. Denny


Slots won't revive interest in racing

It's very hard to understand why the owners of Pimlico Race Course think citizens will be dumb enough to accept the promise that slots will help the racing industry.

Slots would indeed help the racing industry's owners. But does anyone honestly believe more people would attend the races if Pimilico were full of slot machines?

If anyone was interested in the white elephant sport, it wouldn't need the public to subsidize it.

Pimlico would be a great place to have slots, after racing gets out.

Larry Zenich


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