LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Imprisoning millions carries big social cost

I am not surprised that one in every 100 people in the United States is in jail ("1 in 100 adults now in prison," Feb. 29).

As a nation, we have been saying for so long that education is our No. 1 priority.

However, that has just been so much lip service. The will to pay for schools instead of prisons has not been there.

For instance, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. has made the Thornton law on school funding work for the county by using more state funds to pay for education while reducing the amount of the county's budget that goes to pay for schools from almost 48 percent in 2002 to 37.3 percent this year.

And the county built a highly controversial prison in Towson while our schools in the same area are severely overcrowded.

We say we want to put our children first, but then we don't put much-needed funds into those very same schools.

As long as we as a nation, state and county aren't willing to make the hard choices to fund our schools adequately so we can really make a difference in the lives of all of our children, our prison population will continue to rise.

The cost to our society is incalculable.

Abby Beytin

Reisterstown

The writer teaches at Baltimore County's Timber Grove Elementary School.

So 1 percent of the American population is in jail. I would guess that another 10 percent should be, if not for lawyers and liberal judges.

I really don't care if 50 percent of the population is behind bars, so long as the rest of us can live in peace and safety.

Let's build more jails.

And while we're at it, let's shut down all law schools for 20 years.

There are too many lawyers who like to see the criminal element left on the street.

Carl Justice

Baltimore

On Friday, The Sun ran two first-class articles on the front page, above the fold.

First, a staff and wire services report highlighted the embarrassing reality that one in 100 U.S. adults is in prison - that 2,319,258 of our sisters and brothers languish in our jails ("1 in 100 adults now in prison," Feb. 29).

The majority of the crimes involved are drug-related or nonviolent property crimes. Just imagine the effects of these incarcerations on inmates' families and on our entire society.

In the second front-page article, three of The Sun's most accomplished reporters, Jamie Smith Hopkins, Eileen Ambrose and Laura McCandlish, graphically outlined the growing problem caused by the rising cost of living and the stagnant incomes of our working class ("'A tough time,'" Feb. 29).

If middle-class America is struggling, imagine what is happening to Baltimore's poor - who represent about one-fifth of our city's population.

So is America coming to this: Our troops may be in Iraq for the next 100 years; many people are working in prisons, locking up and guarding many of their sisters and brothers; and torture and massive surveillance are regarded as acceptable practices?

Are recession, depression and violence the defining characteristics of the failing American dream?

We are losing our way.

Whatever happened to the common good, our need for solidarity?

Brendan Walsh

Baltimore

The writer is a co-founder of Viva House, a city soup kitchen.

Public financing well worth the cost

According to "Crunch perils campaign bills" (Feb. 28), some state senators oppose a public financing bill that would limit the influence of large campaign contributors in Annapolis because they think that reform would cost too much.

In fact, the cost of this important reform would be minimal --- less than $2 per year for each resident of Maryland.

Candidates for election or re-election to the General Assembly now have to raise substantial funds, mostly from donors who make large contributions.

Whether or not this gives those deep-pocket donors undue special access to legislators, there is widespread suspicion that it does. This perception is eroding confidence in our legislators and government.

A bill to make these elections more democratic passed the House of Delegates last year but failed in the Senate.

This key election reform has been endorsed by more than a dozen Maryland civic organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Progressive Maryland and the Sierra Club.

A recent poll showed support from more than 70 percent of Maryland voters.

Public financing has proved very successful in Arizona and Maine. It is time for Maryland to reap its benefits.

Robert S. Rochlin

Silver Spring

Dealing with Hamas is no path to peace

In "Mideast mayhem" (editorial, Feb. 29), The Sun recommends that to resolve the stalemate in Gaza, Hamas leaders should be dealt with.

But would the United States negotiate with the Taliban, al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden or other terror organizations that seek to murder its civilians and soldiers?

By reaching out to Hamas, the world community would be legitimizing a ruthless group that propagates suicide attacks and hatred of the West.

Hamas should not be talked to, but rather wiped out for the sake of peace.

Josh Hasten

Jerusalem

The writer is a former spokesman for the Yesha Council, which represents the Jewish communities of Judea, the West Bank and Gaza.

Time for real freeze on Israeli building

Thank you for the insightful column on Israel's ludicrously loose interpretation of the meaning of freezing settlement construction ("Still building," Opinion

Commentary, Feb. 28)

As this column notes, West Bank settlers threaten prospects for peace. They also pose an immense ongoing financial and military security burden on Israel - one that U.S. taxpayers are indirectly subsidizing.

So why is Israel continuing to build in occupied territories, in violation of international law?

President Bush should insist on an immediate halt to all construction, the immediate revocation of all building permits in the occupied territories, the demolition of all units begun in the past six months and not yet occupied, and the immediate evacuation of all illegal outposts.

Mr. Bush should put teeth behind his words by vowing to suspend all funding to Israel until a true settlement freeze is enacted.

Deborah Matherly

Columbia

Learning a lesson from Harry's return?

What a relief it was to read that Prince Harry has been sent home from Afghanistan after 10 arduous weeks because security officials feared he would be the target of extremists ("Prince Harry back home from Afghanistan," March 2).

There will be those who exclaim, with righteous indignation, about how appalling it is that a young man born into privilege is protected, while so many other people, whose limited vocational and educational opportunities led them to enter military service, are regarded as expendable.

Such bleeding hearts might even suggest that instead of being sent to fight dubious wars far away, people could be put to work here at home - repairing the nation's infrastructure, for example, or developing ecologically sustainable power sources or providing health care.

Thank goodness our elected officials apparently know better.

Janet L. Goldstein

Baltimore

Grudging applause for radio revision

I hate to say this, but I am discovering Dan Rodricks' show Midday on WYPR to be much more diverse and innovative than the noon-to-2 p.m. Marc Steiner Show ever was ("A perfect public radio storm," Feb. 22).

I am acquainted with Marc Steiner, and I find him very likable in person. I am also a WYPR supporter, all-day listener and station volunteer.

The sudden and cavalier canning of Mr. Steiner was despicable and my sympathies go out to Mr. Steiner for that episode.

But while I might often have had my radio on during the Marc Steiner Show, I was rarely really tuned in.

Now, I am intentionally near the radio during Midday to catch the program.

It is with a degree of ambivalence that I say "bravo" to Dan Rodricks and WYPR.

Jaye Dansicker

Sparks

Long life together a reason for hope

Thank you so much for such a heartwarming article about Elizabeth and Marcello Giachino ("After life together, passing on together," March 2). It brought tears to my eyes.

I get so tired and discouraged about the world we live in together - with so much violence and murder, so many children dying in fires, etc.

To know that a couple could be happily married for 70 years, be so devoted to each other, raise three responsible adults and watch their grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up gives me hope for future generations.

S. M. Wunder

Timonium

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