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Letters to the Editor 11/7

November 06, 2000

Letters to the Editor 11/7



Take a friend to the polls



To the editor:

"Take A Friend To Vote" is a campaign by The League of Women Voters of the United States in their continual effort to involve citizens in the political process. The Washington County Unit of the League supports this initiative.

In 1998, 36.4 percent of voters went to the polls to cast their ballots. That's the lowest voter turnout since 1942! Two out of three Americans, 115 million eligible voters, simply stayed home and didn't vote at all.

Many people explain their failure to vote by saying: "I'm just one person. My little old vote doesn't make a difference."

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Research by the League shows that people are more likely to go to the polls when someone they know and respect asks them. By joining the "Take A Friend To Vote" campaign, you are playing an important role in strengthening the voice that you and your community have in government.

Ask a friend to join you and vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Cookie McDowell

Coordinator

League of Women Voters

Washington County Unit




Correction officers bear large burden



To the editor:

What would the average citizen say if it were proposed that police officers be assigned to a neighborhood which was inhabited by no one but common criminals, and those officers would be unarmed, patrol on foot and be heavily outnumbered?

My guess is that the overwhelming public response would be that the officers would have to be crazy to accept such an assignment. However, as you read this, such a scenario is being played out in all areas of the country.

Correctional officers are considered to be law enforcement officers. Our beat is totally inhabited by convicted felons, who, by definition are people who tend to break laws, rules and regulations. State correctional officers are currently outnumbered by 100 to one or more at various times during the workday. And contrary to poplar belief, we work without a sidearm, and our lives are on the line every minute of the day.

A correctional facility is a misunderstood environment. The average person has little knowledge of its workings. Society sends its criminals to correctional facilities and as time passes, each criminal's crime fades from our memory until the collective prison population becomes a vision of hordes of bad people being warehoused away from decent people where they can cause no further harm. There is also the notion that prison inmates cease to be a problem when they are incarcerated.

Correctional facilities are full of violence perpetrated by the prison population against each other and the facility staff. Felonies are committed daily, but they are called "incidents" and rarely result in public prosecution. Discipline is handled internally and as a rule, the public is never informed of these crimes. In the course of maintaining order in these facilities many officers have endured the humiliation of being spit upon and having urine and feces thrown at them.

Uncounted correctional officers have been punched or kicked, bitten, stabbed, slashed with homemade weapons, taken hostage and even murdered in the line of duty, all the while being legally mandated to maintain their professional composure and refrain from any retaliation.

In addition to these obvious dangers, correctional officers face hidden dangers in the form of AIDS, tuberculosis, Heptatitis B and Hepatitis C. The courts are now imposing longer sentences and the prison population is increasing far beyond the systems' designed capacity. As the public demands more police on the street, governments everywhere are handcuffing police in prisons where violence reigns supreme, jeopardizing all those still working behind prison walls.

Although you will never see us on "Cops" or "Real Stories," correctional officers are law enforcement professionals. The forgotten cop, hidden from view (except for the 1 percent or less who tend to make the news - our counterparts know how that works when someone goes bad or something goes wrong), doing thankless duty on the world's most dangerous beat, hoping someday to receive respect and approval from the public whom we silently serve.

William S. Bohrer

Correctional Officer

MCTC

Hagerstown

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