The Baltimore Sun

Sentencing system defrauds the public

Does anyone understand why Arthur Bremer, who was convicted of attempting to assassinate a presidential candidate, is being released from prison this year after being sentenced to 53 years in prison in 1972 ("Wallace shooter to be freed," Aug. 24)?

He is not being released because he has been a model prisoner. He is not being released because a parole board determined that he has earned the right to live outside the prison walls. He is not being released because of his work tutoring other prisoners.

He is being released because he has reached his mandatory release date.

But how can that be? Mr. Bremer was sentenced to 53 years in prison in late 1972, which means that his mandatory release date should be 2025.

While everyone knows prisoners almost never serve the whole sentence a judge imposes, how much of a sentence must be served in any individual case is often a mystery to the public, the lawyers and even the judge.

Indeed, the complex, confusing and generous system the legislature has created to allow prisoners to get out early is in direct contravention to the claim that our lawmakers are tough on crime.

Years' worth of good conduct credits, which can be awarded even before the prisoner has spent one night in prison, are required by laws passed by the legislature.

Even the mandatory no-parole punishments required in many cases are misleading.

When a convicted defendant can be entitled to be released after doing just one-third or one-half of his or her sentence, mandatory no-parole sentences don't mean much.

Our current sentencing procedures contribute greatly to the public's cynicism about our criminal justice system.

Isn't it time to stop this fraud on the public and adopt a system of truth in sentencing?

Shouldn't the public be able to rely on the sentence a judge imposes?

If such a system were in place, the public would at least know how long an attempted assassin of a presidential candidate would stay in prison.

Dana M. Levitz


The writer is senior judge for the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

Senator looks guilty of sheer hypocrisy

I don't care if Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho wants to have or may have had sex with men ("GOP leaders urging Craig ethics inquiry," Aug. 29).

Sexual orientation isn't one of those things I'm judgmental about or think I should define for other people.

I do, however, care deeply about the apparent hypocrisy of his vocal opposition to gay rights and gay marriage.

I also care about his blatant hubris in thinking that he could so easily disavow his actions in the Minneapolis airport and elsewhere.

Nancy L. Craig


While the case against Sen. Larry E. Craig hasn't been proved, members of his own party are calling for an ethics inquiry.

Thus another fervent exponent of family values has apparently fallen from grace.

It seems incredible to me that those who shout the loudest about the issue of family values so often fall the hardest.

Their hypocrisy is simply unfathomable.

Velva Grebe


Dam would defile an African treasure

Hasn't Africa suffered enough?

First, the European colonial powers exploited it. Now, the World Bank wants to rob it of some of its most spectacular natural beauty in the name of economic progress ("Dam project to displace Uganda falls," Aug. 27).

The financial institution intends to finance the building of a dam to generate hydroelectric power at pristine Bujagali Falls in Uganda.

The falls, which are rightly revered as a very sacred place, may soon be only a memory.

The U.S. Congress should look into this matter.

How would Americans like it if, for instance, a World Bank-funded scheme dammed up Niagara Falls?

I say: Save the Bujagali Falls.

William Hughes


A mixed message on school standards

What right does state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick have to withhold the High School Assessment test scores for individual high schools in each county ("Grasmick proposes alternative to tests," Aug. 29)?

Taxpayers are paying a ton of money for this program, and they deserve to know how their neighborhood schools are doing on these tests.

In an era of accountability in education, taxpayers have a right to see the results of the tests their dollars paid for.

In addition, the idea of offering a senior project as a graduation option for students who fail one or more of the assessment tests is simply another example of the Maryland State Department of Education sending a mixed message to students and parents about the importance of the assessments for graduation.

Is MSDE saying, "Work hard, but if you don't work hard, there is a way around the requirement"?

What kind of waffling is that?

Harry J. Cook Leah Renzi Essex

The writers are, respectively, the chairman of the English department and the chairwoman of the social studies department at Baltimore County's Eastern Technical High School.

Should state cancel all certifying exams?

Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick no longer endorses the idea that the High School Assessment exams must be required for graduation ("Grasmick proposes alternative to tests," Aug. 29).

I wonder if she also would eliminate the medical licensing examination, the state bar exam and the exam applicants must take to become a certified public accountant.

William S. Ramsey


Essex-area activist will be much missed

I wish to thank Fred Rasmussen for his sensitive obituary of Mary J. Nickel, who was known to everyone as Jackie ("Mary J. Nickel," Aug. 21).

Jackie was popular with almost everyone. She was generous, warm, wise, helpful and funny.

Always a newspaperwoman, she was long the editor of The Avenue News and, until very recently, a columnist writing about local history.

Her last publication was a picture history book titled Essex, which was published in April.

Her friends are happy that she lived long enough to see it through the press and to hear the praise it received.

Her friends will miss the hospitality she shared at her waterfront property.

Ms. Nickel was a leader in the defeat of Senate Bill 509 some years back, and her death leaves a void in her Essex and Middle River communities.

Those of us who are Baltimore County community activists know we have lost a remarkable leader.

Her friends feel her loss keenly. We miss her very much.

Richard Parsons


The writer is a founder and former president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.

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