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Letters to the editor 9/27

September 27, 2002

System programs prisoners to fail on the outside



To the editor:


I write to you about a unique circumstance that many citizens never focus on or realize happens. Citizens expect their criminal justice system to work on both ends; when you put em' in, and when you take em' out. To bring what I am getting to into focus, I can think of no better example than President Carter's grandson's book. "Power Lines."

A point that he made during an interview, was that in South Africa's attempt to maintain the status quo, they employed the education system. The government didn't teach blacks how to think, but how to follow rules. In that way blacks in South Africa would never pose a real threat to the status quo.

My point is that judges and juries every day send hundreds of people to prison. They expect that those going in would come out as better persons. To that effect, the Maryland legislature authorizes programs and allocates money so that prisoners will increase their literacy, develop good work habits and job skills; and also to progress through the system to a point when they can be on work release.

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Work release helps to stabilize a prisoner upon release. It helps to prevent the prisoner from considering the option of returning to crime as a means of economic support after years of incarceration.

The Division of Correction and administrative officials at Maryland Correctional Training Center don't like work release.

They don't want prisoners to get out and stay out.

The prisons near Hagerstown stand to lose a lot of money should prisoners get out and stay out. By the way, the prisoners are largely black while the administration is all white. Does this sound a bit like South Africa to you?

I have been incarcerated since 1983. I have served my sentence day for day. I have earned s GED, attended all types of drug and treatment programs and developed a vocational skill in masonry. I am less than nine months from release. Nevertheless, the folks up here at MCTC don't want to let me go to work release where I can earn some money before release.

They want me to go out broke with no money and no job. After 20 years of following rules as a robot, what do you think my chances of staying out are?

After 20 years in prison, the world I left is no longer there. The people I knew have moved on. A lot of my friends don't exist any more. I am largely alone. Because the system here near Hagerstown values everybody as a symbol of job growth and economic stability for their people, I have been programmed to fail and thus become a recycled product.

I wrote to you in an expression of my anxiety, because of the potential for help. I believe that if I can get to work release six months prior to my release, I might be able to earn enough money to at least rent a room, put food on my table, clothes on my back and continue to work until I do better.

I believe it to be a sad testament that the legislature creates and funds these programs, only to have them misused for personal agendas and goals. Thank you for your time.

Larry Branch

MCTC #171423

Hagerstown




We can pray, others can be quiet



To the editor:


This is in response to Dorothy Pigott's letter, in which she addressed the issue of prayer in school, lending her support to keep it from school. The First Amendment to the Constitution was written to keep government from controlling how religious groups operate, not the other way around.

The Declaration of Independence refers to God at least three times. All of the first colleges in America were Christian schools, including Harvard. If we should keep prayer out of schools, then what about Congress - or did we forget that they pray before every session and do not object?

Did we object to the president's call for a countrywide school prayer on Sept. 14?

I do respect that she did some homework and used the Bible to support her claim. She referenced Matthew as support. If you read it, you see Jesus is referring to not praying prayers in public just for self-honor and attention from others.

Going by her interpretation, all prayer should be removed even from church services. However, Jesus did pray in public (at the feeding of the 5,000). If prayer is included in schools, those who believe can pray, while others can sit quietly out of reverence and respect.

Bill Cooper

Hagerstown

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