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Letters to the editor

January 30, 2004

Reform won't work


To the editor:

I have been reading with great interest about the so-called prison reform and staff cuts at the local Hagerstown regional prisons. As a former correctional officer, I must come to the defense of my brothers and sisters in blue. First of all, attempting to "rehabilitate" inmates may look good on paper, but that's not the way it is in the real world.

The system can assist a former felon in obtaining a college degree, but he still ends up back in prison, usually serving a sentence for an even more serious offense. The good news is that some convicted felons can be rehabilitated. The bad news is that most can't. The reason that prisons are growing is very simple. We live in a society today where people have less and less respect for other people and themselves, where parents aren't around to teach a child right from wrong.

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By the time they finally get a prison sentence, it's too late. Attempt after attempt has be made under past governors to install reform programs into the prison system and all have failed. How can the state send "auditors" into a prison, totally unfamiliar with it, and report that the same prison is overstaffed?

I have been out of the system for many years now, but even then, posts were collapsed to include watch towers. How's that for public safety? Now, how about inmate safety? Open housing units, housing a minimum of 24-30 inmates were left unmanned and still are for hours at a time. This means that they are free to roam throughout the unit. What happens if an assault occurs or an inmate becomes seriously ill? Who will be found liable? Most likely one of the correctional officers.

The governor and most other politicians could care less about staff. Western Maryland votes do not amount to a hill of beans as far as they are concerned, and votes are where their main concerns lie. Like it or not, that's the hard facts. There are usually four or five officers standing in each section of the dining room while hundreds of inmates are dining. This is the same ratio or worse that is occurring during other "mass movement' of inmates.

The prisons are understaffed. Replacing officers with counselors and psychologists will not help. Will these people be willing to risk injury by breaking up a fight? Will these people be willing to have urine and feces thrown into their faces? Don't count on it!

Rob Butler
Hagerstown




Forget Mars


To the editor:

The U.S. has spent a small fortune exploring Mars in search of extraterrestrial life. Why Mars? Because even though it is a dry, barren wasteland, we are told that Mars once was completely covered with water which, as everyone knows, is a key component of life.

On the other hand Earth, "The Water Planet," with vast oceans and 11 times more water stored underground than is in the oceans, could never have been covered by water (can you say Noah's flood?) Oh, no; quite impossible.

But hold on. There is enough water on Earth right now to cover the planet to a depth of a mile and a half if the mountains and water basins were leveled out. And the weight of a global flood could easily have raised mountains and lowered water basins to the positions we now see. (Did you know that Mount Everest, the Himalayan range, the Alps, the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Andes and most of the world's other mountains are composed of ocean-bottom sediments?)

Having found no evidence on Earth for evolution, it is understandable that some want to look for that evidence on Mars, especially if they can get taxpayers to pay them handsome salaries to do so. But I submit that the federal government should pull the plug on the Mars program which is nothing more than a desperate attempt to resuscitate a feeble and sickly - some say rapidly dying - theory of evolution. Why should taxpayers have to bankroll an interplanetary scavenger hunt when they have pressing needs right here on Earth?

A.J. Westfall
Greencastle, Pa.

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