Isn’t it that time of the year when I pick up everything and move? Why, yes it is. Thankfully, this move is not nearly as drastic as my yearly cross-country expeditions, I’m just moving down the road from Baltimore to D.C.
If you follow my blog, you’ve noticed the lack of posts that comes about when your time is being filled with stuffing your life into cardboard boxes, but fear not! As with every year around this time, I should be back up and running by the end of the month.
Oh, the above image was created for the Baltimore Sun, and I felt it fit nicely with my current circumstance.
A used diaper, a half-eaten banana and a ripped shirt. The significance of these three items could be anything, depending on the person. But for me, these random objects represent a glimpse of the trash that could be littering my neighborhood at any given moment.
I have a new Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun about Baltimore and its affinity for litter.
Hear ye, hear ye! Today marks the return of my short run “Hack of the Week.” At the end of each week I take the one piece of news in which an individual portrayed the qualities of a supreme jackass and unleash their doings onto the world.
And what a week to return my series, it truly was an embarrassment of riches in fools on display. From political elites moonlighting as 18th century love gurus to a former gunslinger using stand your ground to murder art, it’s been one for the books. In the end though, it felt only right that the honor went local for the return.
On January 22, former Baltimore cop Lamin Manneh (not pictured above) pleaded guilty to running a small business venture in prostitution.
In May of 2013, Manneh was caught playing the field in the job market when undercover cops busted him for prostituting his 19 year old wife while still an officer assigned to Baltimore’s Eastern District.
So congratulations Lamin Manneh: Pimp Cop! On top of the five year prison sentence awaiting you, you have also been awarded the coveted title of “Hack of the Week.”
As the Maryland General Assembly begins debate over the fate of pit bulls, let’s step back and note the ways that ham-fisted breed discrimination laws negatively effect society. Instead of labeling certain dogs with a Scarlett letter, we should be scrutinizing the crimes that happen to pit bulls and the paltry consequences that encourage individuals to commit these actions.
For instance, in Maryland, abandonment of an animal is classified as a $100 misdemeanor, animal cruelty is 90 days in the slammer, and aggravated animal cruelty (which includes dogfighting) would mean a charge of no more than 3 years in jail or a $5,000 fine. Yet when a Maryland public school employee was charged with bestiality, she was met with a charge of up to 10 years in prison. Why the disparity? The logical thing would seem to be enacting harsher penalties for the type of mistreatment that breaks these animals instead of resorting to smearing the reputation of an entire breed and their owners.
And what about the victims of breed discrimination? The trumpet is played the loudest for those who fear falling prey to a pit bull in the wild, but we rarely ever hear of the toll that bans can take aside from “dog owners would lose a member of the family.” But let’s get specific. Take for example Daniella Guglieimi of Prince George County, Maryland, who had been forced to give up her pit bull despite the fact that it acted as her service dog due a county wide ban on the breed. Guglieimi relied on the dog due to issues from being paralyzed and sustained injuries until a judge ruled the dog be returned to her due to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Or look at the broader repercussions breed discrimination laws can have on a state. Such ineffective legislation can dampen the prosperity of a region by dissuading possible residents from moving there and send residents packing as they seek a new home that won’t ask them to send their pet up the river. All of this piled on the cost that taxpayers have to shoulder in order to debate and implement laws that end up not living up to the price.
The key to repealing breed discrimination laws is to admit that they don’t work. Holland had the courage to stand up and admit their error. In 2008, then Dutch Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg repealed a 1993 pit bull ban after it was found that the law had led to no decrease in dog bites. Similarly in 2009, Italy had decided that it’s ban on 17 dogs (down from 92 breeds) was a little too hair-trigger and scrapped it in favor of focusing on irresponsible owners.
All dogs are animals and possess the ability to snap, as unfortunately the former mayor of Bullhead City, Arizona found out last month when she was attacked and her husband mauled to death while breaking up a fight between their boxer and cocker spaniel. The important thing when such a tragedy happens is to not snap into blind action that will villainize dogs and their owners, but rather to calmly decipher the actual issue and craft solutions that have real benefits down the road - of which breed discrimination does not.
The revolving door of prison - a vicious cycle, that if not given the proper guidance, a man or woman can get locked into for the rest of their lives. According to a 2011 Pew Center on the States report, more than 4 in 10 inmates will return to their barbed-wire abode within three years of release. Here in Maryland, 43.3 percent (that’s nearly half) of the inmate population will be refitted for an orange jumpsuit. This is no doubt a startling statistic, but one Maryland Gubernatorial hopeful has the answer to turn the revolving door into a one way exit – tablet computers. Wait … come again?
Quit rubbing your eyes, you read that correctly. Maryland Attorney General and early gubernatorial contender Douglas Gansler announced the plan as part of his “Building Our Best Maryland” tour.
Sarcasm aside, most likely your opinion on Gansler’s tablets-for-inmates program will largely be leveled by your idea on the role of prison’s in modern society. If you are one who believes that prisons are a reforming tool for individuals who were subverted from their bright future down a derelict path, then you will probably agree with the tactic. But, if you feel that prison is a punishment for those who chose to be blights on society, then you could very well see this as a leavening of the required harsh conditions and an incentive for criminals not to fear returning to prison.
Personally, I feel that Gansler is taking a “What now?” as opposed to “Why in the first place?” stance when it comes to inmates. Or, in less convoluted terms, he’s trying to figure out what to do with inmates after they’ve entered the system as opposed to stopping them from becoming inmates to begin with. You need to target potential inmates while they’re young.
When faced with the criticism that perhaps the tablets would be better suited in the school system, Gansler responded that his proposal is a “a different issue,” - but is it? Studies have shown that better schooling can be an influence on crime levels. Let’s look at Maryland’s largest city - Baltimore. Baltimore County school’s lag behind the rest of Maryland’s school system, and at the same time Baltimore’s crime rate is over half the rest of the state. Is it mere coincidence?
The Baltimore public school system is well known for not investing in it’s students. $250,000 spent on executive suite remodeling, funds meant for the classrooms being spent on dinners and hair appointments, $3.5 million in federal stimulus dollars targeted for troubled schools vanishing, and the song keeps playing. The school system can at times seem like a golden parachute for it’s employees while acting as a lead ballon for it’s students. Perhaps it is not out of bounds to suggest that the same reasoning behind using tablets to keep prisoners from returning could also benefit the students of an inattentive school system. Especially if that inattentive school system is engulfed in an area of high crime and high poverty.
While it’s all well and good to think about prisoners after the fact, Gansler and the rest of Maryland needs to start getting serious about putting proper firewalls in place at a young age to keep the prison populations low. Maryland legislators scrapped a proposed (and condemned) $70 million juvenile detention facility plan, but the idea behind it’s initiation shows how unwilling we can be to get our hands dirty in the gritty lives of troubled youths - opting to just lock them into a system of turmoil. Perhaps we’re just not ready as a society to invest in tackling the root of the inmate population. Instead we’ll just keep trimming the branches, and scratch our heads when they keep growing back.
I will be rooting for Baltimore tonight, for multiple reasons. The main reason being that I’m a Dallas fan, so there are 4 NFC teams that I’m inclined to root against: The Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and Niners. Reason number 2 being that I absolutely hate the Pittsburgh Steelers, so seeing their nemesis win the Superbowl will bring me great joy as I picture all of the terrible towels laying silent in a closet as The Ravens hoist the trophy over their head.
Not a political one but I’m posting it anyways. I did this for the Baltimore Sun, it ran in their paper today. I always love seeing the final layout from the art director, seeing the work paid off in use.