Pubdate: Mon, 09 Jan 2006
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2006 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Dan Rodricks
Bookmark: (Women)


Guys needed. Nothing against the women who have called here to offer 
to be mentors to people climbing out of drug addiction and 
incarceration, but we need guys, too. And right now there are about 
five women offering to help for every guy who's picked up the phone 
or tapped out an e-mail.

A lot of guys, including the governor and lieutenant governor of 
Maryland and the executive of Baltimore County, have expressed 
support for the efforts to get recovering addicts and other 
ex-offenders into the working mainstream. (And if Bob Ehrlich, 
Michael Steele and Jim Smith are interested in quietly, privately 
doing a little mentoring on the side, they should give me a call.)

A lot of others have derided the effort, in e-mail and in various 
public forums.

And that's OK. It's a free country.

But this is what I ask guys who tell me we're crazy to be spending 
time on this project: What are you doing about it? Would it break 
your back to reach out to a single stranger, someone who's shown some 
motivation to change his life and find a job, and give him an 
occasional call with an encouraging word?

Trying to get adult ex-offenders, the majority of them men, out of 
their dreary cycle of drugs-crime-incarceration-unemployment requires 
hard sweat, patience and a long-term view of things. This is not for 
the cynical, not for someone with ants-in-pants disease. That's 
probably why only a handful of agencies of government and the 
nonprofit sector are at work on it.

But look, this problem is costing us big time and has for years.

Did drug addicts and drug dealers cause their own problems?


But how long do we dismiss people in the drug crowd because they made 
bad decisions or grew up in poor, dysfunctional households with lousy 
role models and no character education?

I don't see how we can abide a 51 percent recidivist rate and a 
costly war on drugs that doesn't even approach reducing the 
addictions that cause the demand. Across the state of Maryland, we 
spend way too much on courts and incarceration, public safety and 
home security, emergency-room visits, homeowners' insurance, car 
insurance - all related to the Baltimore region's nearly 40-year-old 
drug epidemic. It hurts our national reputation, too. (And I don't 
care what Men's Fitness says about our level of health.)

How long do we keep doing this?

I don't know where the quote came from originally, but when I 
interviewed him about these issues last month, Ehrlich used it: "A 
fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over again, 
expecting a different outcome."

Ehrlich is going to make another push in the coming General Assembly 
session to get his administration's offender re-entry program into 
more Maryland prisons, and hopefully the allegedly progressive 
Democrats who run things in Annapolis will open their minds to it.

What we need is a sweeping break of the drugs-and-crime cycle, a 
complete rethinking of how to deal with men and women who take up 
space in our prisons - or consume time and money in our probation 
system - because they use drugs and/or sell them.

Government and the nonprofit sector need to provide treatment on 
demand for thousands who can't afford it, intervene in the lives of 
at-risk kids, and help recovering addicts redirect their lives. The 
business community needs to remove some of the many obstacles 
nonviolent offenders face as they seek employment.

For the rest of us, I suggest the one man/one woman approach. If each 
of us - that is, those who never were or are no longer addicted to 
drugs, who are employed or retired from employment, who have 
knowledge, experience or ideas to offer - connects with one of our 
brothers and sisters trying to emerge from the bleak streets, we 
might get somewhere.

I have a long list of men between 18 and 50 years of age who can use 
an encouraging word, even if over the phone.

So, here's a way to get involved, guys. Give me a call at 410-332-6166.

Women are still welcome, too. But we need a few hundred good men.

Another opportunity

You can also do this: Attend the St. Frances Academy Community 
Center's fourth annual Day of Self-Help and Service on Martin Luther 
King Jr. Day, Jan. 16. The center is at 501 E. Chase St.

I mentioned this last week and mention it again in today's specific 
appeal to guys. This is a job fair set up to connect those seeking 
help with those who can give it - either with a job or just the 
support and advice that comes from mentoring.

Registration is at 8:30 a.m. There will be classes in resume writing, 
interviewing skills and the attitudes and behaviors needed to be 
successful in the workplace. At noon, there will be a brief prayer 
service and a lunch that brings together job-seekers with the mentors 
willing to help them. After lunch, job-seekers get to meet with 
employers, program representatives or a lawyer to discuss the 
long-term effects of criminal records on employment.

If your company would like to have a presence at the job fair, or if 
you'd like to volunteer as a mentor, call 410-539-5794, ext. 30 or ext. 28.

And if you're looking for work, make sure you get there.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman