Dear drug dealers
Dan Rodricks' campaign to help Baltimore residents "get out of the game."
May 11, 2006
They renamed the old, scary Maryland Penitentiary a few years ago and changed its purpose. It's now called the Metropolitan Transition Center, a place where inmates go when they are in the last couple of years of prison time. Given its purpose and potential, it's probably one of the most important institutions in Baltimore - a crossroads where men who once caused so much trouble in their home communities either beat the devil or re-up.
April 30, 2006
Even though ex-offender threw away a second chance, don't throw in the towel on all
April 24, 2006
Icompare the names in reports of killings in Baltimore with the names of men who called The Sun during the last 10 months to ask for help in finding jobs that might get them out of dealing drugs or other potentially deadly crimes. So far, I know only of one man who came in from the street for help, returned to his old lifestyle and ended up dead because of it.
April 16, 2006
There are young men out there - teenage boys from Baltimore to Columbia, from Aberdeen to Annapolis - who will be making decisions this spring. Some will have to decide where to go to college in the fall, or which lacrosse team to play with this summer, or which girl to ask to a prom. Some will have to decide whether to continue to be a stickup boy or a young thug who sells heroin.
April 10, 2006
Alittle more attention must be paid: Keith Harrison, The Sun's Police Officer of the Year for excellence in community service, has been deeply engaged in the effort to get drug dealers and drug addicts out of that miserable game. We kind of missed the story the other day when we reported on Harrison's selection from among dozens of nominees across Maryland. He's done more than "set up an office where citizens can talk privately to officers about their lives." Like street-corner missionaries, Harrison and his colleagues from the Baltimore Police Department's Get Out of the Game unit have been encouraging hard-core drug offenders to change their lives. Their work isn't about arrests; it's about breaking the dreariest of cycles in this drug-infested city.
March 26, 2006
I can't use Chico's full name because he thinks he'll be killed for talking to a newspaper columnist. It's a small big town, Baltimore. Everybody knows everybody, or everybody knows somebody who knows somebody, and particularly in the miserable drug life - guys selling dope, or guys sticking up guys selling dope - it's all this kill-or-be-killed stuff among homie familiaritas in sales territories that have become even more compact under O'Malley-era police pressure.
March 20, 2006
On the morning of Sept. 5, 2000, Baltimore police conducted what drug dealers call "a house raid" on 43rd Street in a North Baltimore neighborhood that had been beleaguered by gang activity for several months. Police arrested four people and listed these confiscated items for a Sun reporter: 160 vials of cocaine; 19 ounces of pure heroin; 6 ounces of pure cocaine; $8,000 in cash; and a .22-caliber Intertec machine pistol with a silencer. Police placed the value of the heroin at $285,000, the cocaine at $20,000.
March 5, 2006
Sometimes I'll sit there - in a courtroom maybe, or at a desk with a phone to my ear - or I'll stand on a Baltimore sidewalk and do what they pay me to do, which is listen to people give their arguments, tell their stories and explain themselves, and it'll hit me: I couldn't be a psychiatrist.
March 3, 2006
This is for Jim, who called here the other day. I won't use the last name you left on The Sun's voice-mail system because I haven't been able to speak with you. It doesn't matter. You know who you are. There's only one person who called 410-332-6166 this week to say he was going to take his own life.
February 26, 2006
Iam regularly pleased by the number of Sun readers who ask about Harry Calloway Jr. I get it all the time. People ask how he's doing, what he's doing, whether he's staying out of trouble - and this continues several months after Calloway first emerged as a kind of poster child for second chances among drug dealers, drug addicts and all the miserable others who drained the life out of long stretches of Baltimore over long periods of time.
February 12, 2006
Take LaFawn Weaver, for instance. Here's a young man who admits to making bad choices and getting arrested a couple of times -- back when he was a teenager, primarily -- and blowing a good job because he liked to smoke reefer. OK. So it's time to move on. He says he's made a personal declaration to try again and do it right. But so far, Weaver hasn't been able to find the legitimate job that gets him off the street for good and into America's taxpaying, mainstream work force.
February 5, 2006
Guys with guns in the city of Baltimore: I got a Super Bowl Sunday gift for you. Some people pay $100 an hour to get this good stuff. You're getting it for free -- a little advice that could change your life. Here goes:
January 22, 2006
Take a guy like Eric Brooks, for instance. He's 30 years old and he's been in trouble for - here's a shocker - dealing drugs in Baltimore. Last year, Brooks received a taxpayer-financed trip to a Maryland prison for seven months. He went to the Metropolitan Transition Center, which is the old Maryland Penitentiary, that Frankenstein castle commuters see from the Jones Falls Expressway. Based on what state officials have told me, it cost us about $14,000 to keep Eric Brooks there.
January 1, 2006
Here's a suggestion for 2006: Be a mentor, be a mensch. Make a difference in the life of one man or one woman trying to stay off the drug corners and out of prison -- just by showing some interest. You could sign up for this service at an event Jan. 16 (see below), or you could phone in your support. Milton Bates did, and things have worked out pretty well so far.
December 30, 2005
Aclock ticks in Baltimore, and I don't mean the one in Oriole Park. It's the homicide clock. It's not something you can look up and see, but something you feel and hear - part of Baltimore's biorhythm - and every year at this time, the ticks get louder, the pulse grows stronger, and anyone who still cares about this stupid waste of life gets a headache.
December 22, 2005
Mary Ann Saar, Maryland's public safety secretary, said it again last week at a breakfast honoring both ex-offenders who find their way into the mainstream working world and the companies that have the guts to hire them: "This is not a liberal issue. This is not a conservative issue. This is not a Republican issue. It is not a Democratic issue. This is a common-sense issue that will serve all of us."
December 18, 2005
America's 51st state - the state of Incarceration - has a citizenship of about 2.1 million now, making it just about as populated as Nevada or Utah. Incarceration USA had just 500,000 residents in 1980; the war on drugs, more than any other factor, contributed to its striking growth - and continues to fuel its remarkable retention rate. In 2000, nearly 605,000 inmates were released back into the other 50 states. In 2003, that number reached 656,320, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Despite this, Incarceration still boasts more people than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
December 11, 2005
Just so you know, before I take you into the thorny stuff: I've heard from dozens of people - city and suburban families of longtime drug addicts - who say things are better now. Their sons, husbands, brothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends, sisters are clean, staying out of trouble and away from their old junkie friends, working and taking care of their children. There are a lot of stories like that.
December 5, 2005
One man, one woman at a time - let's try it that way. Let's say you own a small business, or let's say you're in middle management of a medium-to-large-to-extra-large company. Maybe you're even the CEO, or the COO or the CFO. Maybe you have an MBA, belong to the GBC, work in HRD, drive a BMW, or something GMC.
December 4, 2005
There's no question that Michael Rabuck should have been institutionalized. People and their property in the city and Baltimore County were safer with him off the street. But this drug-addicted man ended up in a maximum-security prison, the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup, where other inmates were eager to give him heroin - and willing to kill him if he did not get his family to pay for it.
November 24, 2005
Thanks to those who try to make life better for all of us by making life better for themselves. There are still too many homicides in Baltimore - though, at 242, not as many as the 259 last year at this time - and too many men and women addicted to heroin and cocaine. But there are people among us trying to get to a better place in their lives, away from the addictions that create the drug market that begets so much of the violence, and out of unemployment, crime and prison. We should praise and thank them for their efforts, against tough odds, because therein lies the progress of a city, a state and a nation - one man, one woman at a time.
November 17, 2005
And so it begins again for Harry Calloway. Once more, he restarts his life. On Monday, Calloway started classes at Sojourner-Douglass College for the second time this year, and on Nov. 30 he'll be back at the Moveable Feast culinary class.
September 26, 2005
I call them "ladies in waiting," the mothers and grandmothers, sisters, wives and fiancees who, with hope and prayer and superhuman patience, keep the faith that one day their men will straighten up, emerge from the drug life or prison and come safe home. I hear from them frequently.
September 25, 2005
A young, beautiful, dark-skinned woman, her hair in cornrows and her arms wrapped around her pregnancy, sits at the end of a park bench, silent and depressed, and for good reason: She's married to a 25-year-old drug dealer who suffered brain damage in a beating last spring, and he faces prison this fall. You can understand why she might want to avoid the conversation at the other end of the bench - the one between the father of her unborn child and the newspaper guy. The woman turns her back slightly and stares at the dry grass at her feet.
September 24, 2005
With that salutation began an appeal in this newspaper for the men and women selling cocaine, heroin and marijuana in Baltimore to ease up for the summer. Quit the guns, give them a rest. Peddle the powder and weed, if you must. But don't re-up the inventory. Chill in the season of steamed crabs and beer, cold watermelon and shaved ice.
September 22, 2005
You know who you are. Kenneth, Leon, William, Joseph and Walter. You know why I'm calling your names out in print today. And Arthur, Tina, Gordon, Andre, Tory and Shawn - where are you?
September 18, 2005
HERE'S WHAT happens in the big city: A 42-year-old man, who wasted half his life in jails and prisons because of heroin, announces that he's clean and wants out. No longer will he do dope or deal dope. He wants to leave the ranks of the thousands of men and women who for years helped suck the life out of vast stretches of Baltimore. "I just want to get back to working, and being productive," the man says. He sounds earnest.
September 15, 2005
I ASKED Donta Ellerbe, a 28-year-old Baltimorean who spent too much of his young life selling heroin in his hometown, what he would like to do for a living, now that he's sworn off the hustle, and this is what he said: "I'm a good people person. I think I would be good at customer service."
September 11, 2005
BALTIMORE DRUG dealers and former dealers, drug addicts and recovering addicts didn't vote for Bob Ehrlich in 2002. Check me if I'm wrong, brothers and sisters, but many of you either have felony convictions, which means you weren't allowed to vote, or you were incarcerated at the time of the gubernatorial election. Others were just "distracted," committing crimes to feed your addictions, and therefore not engaged in that grand thing we call democracy. And even if you were, you were not inclined to vote for a Republican.
September 1, 2005
Dan Rodricks: An excavation company offers a second chance, and six ex-dealers take an important first step
LIVING DRUG-FREE, feeling part of the working world and the progress of your city, making $10 an hour for a new company owned by people who believe in second chances, knowing your relatives are glad to see you and that your neighbors might even respect you - all that beats hustling heroin for $50 a day. Any way you measure it, the lives of Thomas Willis, Ricky Smith, Sean Wright, Craig Wright, William Taylor and Melvin Richardson are better at the start of September than they were at the start of August - and so, by a small increment, is the quality of life in Baltimore.
August 28, 2005
AT A MEETING of recovering drug addicts in West Baltimore the other night, there were more answers than questions, which is a good thing in group therapy - it means there's honesty in the room. Everyone seemed to feel free to recount their struggles and express their feelings, and no man put his brother on the spot with questions - until they got to me.
August 25, 2005
DEAR NICOLE Sesker: Your stepdaddy must love you a lot. He's the police commissioner of Baltimore, and yesterday Baltimore and the world learned what you, the commissioner and some of his officers have known for a long time --- that you're a heroin addict.
August 21, 2005
RALPH E. "Casey" Kloetzli died in an alley behind an abandoned house on a short side street I had neither heard of nor visited in my 27 years in Baltimore. Until two weeks ago, he had lived a tormented life in the "other Baltimore," the subculture of addiction and distress that so many of us know only from a distance.
August 18, 2005
LISTENING to a man named Troy talk about his life as a drug dealer -- with 20 clients who buy marijuana from him on a regular basis, Troy didn't want his full name printed because of the legal ramifications -- I think to myself: This guy could have been somebody.
August 14, 2005
TWO MONTHS and two days have passed since the first profiles of men and women caught up in Baltimore's drug life -- and eager to get out of it -- appeared in this space. The contact count is up around 150 now, and today's column is an update on where the many hours of conversations with present and former dealers and addicts (or their mothers and grandmothers) have led.
August 11, 2005
DRUG DEALERS: Your mothers have been calling; your grandmothers too. I speak with them almost daily. The conversations are always pleasant, but the subject is always sad, and the subject is always you - the sons and grandsons who hustle drugs on the streets of Baltimore.
August 7, 2005
DEAR BALTIMORE City Council: Several of you are questioning the proposal to have the city finance the construction of a $305 million hotel to give the downtown convention business a boost. You're in rare form. We're not used to the City Council doing this sort of thing - challenging the mayor, demanding a better deal for taxpayers. I'm impressed.
July 31, 2005
BALTIMORE'S drug cancer has eaten away at people, families and whole neighborhoods for more than three decades. It has affected the entire region in some way and, considering the thousands of citizens involved in this problem, seems intractable, a lost cause.
July 28, 2005
DOZENS OF Baltimoreans have contacted The Sun during the past six weeks to express a desire to end their roles in one of the city's most serious problems - the drug trade that supplies thousands of city and suburban residents with heroin and cocaine, ruins families and neighborhoods, and fuels the violence that keeps Baltimore high on the homicide charts.
July 24, 2005
LEONARD HAMM, the Baltimore police commissioner, could be standing on a street corner watching his officers make a drug arrest, or he might be attending a community event, walking into a barber shop, or just sitting on the front steps of his house. It could happen any time, and often does. Someone recognizes Hamm, walks up to him and says: "Commissioner, I got to get out of the game."
July 21, 2005
DEAR BALTIMORE drug dealers: It's like this. You either want to live a long, relatively happy life or die young and horribly (or, if you're lucky, maybe middle-aged and horribly). You either want to have a home, family and friends (maybe even DirecTV), or go back to prison.
July 17, 2005
TOMI HIERS, who serves in the Ehrlich administration with a half-mile title - executive assistant to the deputy secretary for operations, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services - believes the Republican governor of Maryland means to do what no Democrat in recent memory was able to do: turn criminals into productive citizens, give a guy a second chance. The administration wants to stop wasting taxpayer money - $24,000 per year per inmate - on a revolving door. "We are trying to change the culture of corrections," Hiers says.
July 7, 2005
HERE'S DARRYL Logan. Here's a 45-year-old lifelong Baltimorean, a graduate of one of its venerable independent schools - and a longtime drug addict. He seems like a bright guy. He's certainly a congenial conversationalist. And he's one of our estimated 40,000 heroin users.
July 3, 2005
DEAR BALTIMORE drug dealers: Tired of your loser life? Tired of being used to spread the poison in your hometown? Tired of living with your mother because, despite what people think, you can't afford a place of your own? Tired of the prospect of going to jail again, or ending up with a bullet in your head?
June 19, 2005
THIS IS Berson Tyner's first Father's Day as a free man in 10 years. For most of the past decade -- and for several of the years before that -- he was a prisoner in the Maryland correctional system. If he saw his three sons on Father's Day, it was probably in a guarded visiting room, in Hagerstown or Jessup.
June 16, 2005
UPON HEARING her story, a consoling preacher might have been tempted to give Towanda Reaves that old, hopeful proverb about doors -- when one closes, another one opens. We found out yesterday that the door Reaves thought had been closed to her forever is still open a crack. It's hard to see from about five years away, but there's definitely a small opening.
June 13, 2005
STEVEN "Take Back The City" Mitchell is certainly dedicated to the cause, and he's always trying to get other men - black, white, Asian, Republican or Democrat, city or suburban - to join him in taking on one of the most persistent and daunting challenges in our midst. He's all about saving Baltimore kids from drugs, thugs and violence.
June 12, 2005
FOUR MEN - one in his 40s and tired of going to jail, one who just barely escaped the bullets that killed his best friend, one under pressure from police and family to change careers, another who left the streets six years ago to work toward a middle-class life - all agree: Many who sell drugs in Baltimore will never stop, unless arrested or killed, but many more would prefer another way to make a living. If there were more decent jobs and more employers willing to give a felon a second chance, there might be fewer dealers competing for corners and this city might be a less deadly place.