- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

The story and the photo quickly tug at the heart's strings and bring a smile to your face. Two little black girls sitting before a computer, chatting with their dad. Do not be fooled, though. These girls' pop isn't a soldier stationed in Iraq or another far-off land. And he's not some employee out of town on business. Their dad is a felon.

The article and photo, which appeared yesterday on the front cover of The Washington Post's Metro section yesterday, are at once evocative and deceptive. The picture does precisely what it is supposed to do: Draw your attention during these troubled times to happy faces.

The deception lies in the text, which tries to gin up sympathy for convicts behind bars hundreds of miles away from their families. One mother says she no longer visits her son, who used to be in Lorton, Va., because he now is in the federal slammer in Leavenworth in Kansas a two-day bus trip for her. The article also quotes D.C. congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who wants Capitol Hill to "to put some fire" under the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Mrs. Norton said she plans to hold a hearing and quiz the bureau on alternative locations for the Bad Boys of D.C.'s Mean Streets.

The short answer is, of course, that there are alternatives. Mrs. Norton would know if she'd paid closer attention to her own constituents and the murder rate.

D.C. Police Chief Chuck Ramsey has said on many occasions that the rise in homicides can easily be attributed, in part, to the release of the Bad Boys of D.C. Mean Streets. Many of these Bad Boys are also up to their old drug tricks, pushing PCP, or Angel Dust as it is sometimes called. The chief also is concerned about the thousands of other convicts that the Bureau of Prisons will release over the next few years and who will again call D.C. their home.

Interestingly, the article in The Post called these guys "ex-convicts" yet another deception. For many of these Bad Boys are not ex-cons. They are not hard-up dads who got caught stealing Pampers from the neighborhood store so he could diaper his newborn, or of illegally panhandling at Dupont Circle. These Bad Boys are in maximum-security federal penitentiaries. Some are parolees and some are convicts in halfway houses. The police chief is justifiably concerned, because they are killers, thieves, gunmen, robbers, rapists and drug pushers people who scared the daylights out you in 1960s, when heroin was king, and in the 1970s when PCP was the drug of choice, and in the 1980s when crack and carjack joined our lexicon.

Locked up before America toughened its drug laws and sentences, they are either home or on their way home. Somebody needs to inform Mrs. Norton that several hundred of Bad Boys will be here by summer's end, getting three hots and a cot in the nation's capital. The Post article doesn't mention that either, though.

It does, however, give a plug to another smiling face that of Carol Fennelly. She is not the mother of the two little girls I mentioned earlier. Carol Fennelly was the longtime partner of Mitch Snyder. Together, they ran the infamous federal homeless shelter called CCNV. Miss Fennelly left the organization a few years after Mr. Snyder committed suicide in 1990. She and her social-service efforts have been mostly low key since then.

There is no coincidence now, however, that her current mission Hope House, which helps children stay in touch with their imprisoned fathers is gaining attention from The Post, whose bleeding heart often colors its news pages. This is the time of year when the political battle rages over funding for social services. More money for HIV/AIDS or feeding programs for the poor? Summer jobs for youth or literacy programs for immigrants? More funds for recreational programs or organizations like Hope House?

Indeed, we mustn't forget why we have abandoned babies, and boarder babies and crack-addicted babies children dependent, like convicts, on the government.

Bless the hearts and hands that help to keep fatherless families intact. But children and prison, in my mind, just don't mix.

So, let us not forget that the natural parents of those very children are, in large part, the problem.

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