My civic issue blog focuses on the struggles of living in urban America. I have discussed several topics endemic to large cities including weak education, drug addiction, and high crime rates. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss another pressing issue within cities in the United States, poverty.
The formal definition of poverty, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” With that definition in mind I would like to discuss the issue of poverty within the city of Baltimore.
After the riots sparked by Freddie Gray’s death last year, many condemned the looting, burning, and destruction that took place in the city, labeling the participants as “thugs” and blaming them for disrupting an Orioles game at Camden Yards. While I do not condone violence or the destruction of innocent person’s businesses, I believe it is important to recognize that riots do not just happen at random. Many individuals agreed with this opinion, including President Obama and several other politicians who stated that after the unrest following Freddie Gray’s death, it is necessary to examine the root causes of tension in Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods. Following the Baltimore riots, several articles were published that discussed the root causes of Baltimore’s unrest. Ultimately, each of these articles discusses poverty as a root problem in Baltimore’s legacy.
The statistics regarding poverty in Baltimore are truly disheartening and upsetting to read. In a city that has so many wonderful things to offer, it is saddening to witness the degradation and poverty that plagues areas of Baltimore. According to an article released by ATTN, almost a quarter of Baltimore residents live below the poverty line. The 2009-2013 consensuses found that 23.8 percent of the population live below the poverty line and unfortunately, 29.4 percent of children are living below the poverty rate.
In an attempt to shed some light on to why these numbers are so high, Charles Ellison of The Root, stated that perhaps the poverty rates are so high because the unemployment rates in Baltimore are drastically high as well. For example, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Baltimore’s official unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, which is double the national average. Furthermore, another shocking statistic states that less than 58 percent of working-age black men are employed while over 78 percent of white working-age men are employed. Race and employment remain entwined in Baltimore.
It is clear that there are several factors that account for the shocking poverty rates in Baltimore. Also, it is evident that the poor education, rampant drug addiction, high crime rates, and high poverty rates all relate to each other. For example, my very first civic issue blog post discussed the poor education system within Baltimore. Perhaps a weak education system and high drop-out rates leave young adults unprepared and unskilled and , consequently, unable to acquire higher paying stable jobs. The lack of education and associated lack of earning power directly said contributes to poverty. In addition, if a man or woman in Baltimore is responsible for children or other dependent individuals, he or she may turn to a lifestyle of selling drugs in order to obtain money and support him or herself and his or her family.
It is evident that each of these issues is intertwined and in order to address the high poverty rate, the other issues must be addressed as well. Baltimore must strive to resolve the rampant drug problem, combat crime, and strengthen the education system. If Baltimore can persevere, the people of the city will reap the benefits and the poverty rates will significantly decline.
On Wednesday, March 2nd, I attended a deliberation at the Municipal Building on South Allen Street. The title of the of the deliberation was “The Rise of Study Drugs on College Campuses.” The study drug discussed was Adderall. The deliberation team offered three different approaches on how to deal with the issue of Adderall use on college campuses.
The first approach suggested was to enforce stricter laws and fines to deter students from utilizing Adderall. Adderall is a schedule II drug, the same level as meth and morphine in the eyes of the DEA. Many students do not realize how serious Adderall is and how severe the consequences are. For example, if an individual is caught using Adderall without a prescription, he may face a 10,000 fine and a year and jail. Also, if someone is caught selling Adderall the fine is 5 million dollars and 20 years and prison. The first approach suggested that these fines and jail times be more enforced. However, many students in the audience felt that this would not work because if students really want to use Adderall, they will, regardless of the laws or fines. Many students also agreed that the punishments were too harsh. One young man suggested that in order to combat the usage of Adderall on college campuses, the students themselves must create a stigma to discourage kids from thinking that Adderall is a normal and cool thing to do. Today, there are several commercials and campaigns that talk about how uncool and unattractive smoking cigarettes is. The young man suggested that a similar approach may work on Adderall.
The second approach moved in the complete opposite direction. The second approach was to decriminalize the use of Adderall. This approach would remove Adderall’s schedule II status and therefore remove any fines or jail time that come with its use. Also, it would be legal for students to use it to study and they could even buy small dosages of it behind the counter. This option would also include educational programs to inform students on the drugs effects and possible health risks. This approach raised a lot of questions and issues from the audience. For example, many wondered if students would form a dependency on the drug and have to constantly increase their dosage. However, the deliberation team informed the audience that Adderall is not addictive and does not have any long-term health effects. The effects of Adderall are similar to those of caffeine and only last a short amount of time. Some students felt that it would be unfair because the students who choose to take Adderall would be at an advantage. However, anther student pointed out that it is not unfair if the drug is available to everyone and that whether or not you choose to use it is your own personal decision.
The final approach did not focus on Adderall itself but rather on the educational system. The deliberation teams suggested reforming the educational system so that there would be less competition and stress and thus, reduce the need for studies drugs. Many students were in favor of this approach. Some students complained that in some of their classes, their grades are entirely made of just two or three tests and nothing else. This place a lot of stress on students to do well on these tests and even drives some to use drugs to do well. A young woman in the crowd suggesting that classes be more seminar style to provide a more calm and replaced environment. Another student suggested that some finals could be projects that would be worked on for several weeks instead of just an hour and a half test that kids cram for the night before. Another suggestion was more group activities to relieve the stress of always having to do things on your own. However, another student pointed out that because the United States is a capitalist country, there will always be competition and there is no possible way to eliminate it. He explained that it might be beneficial to introduce kids to the pressures and concepts of competition so that they know what to expect when they get into the real world.
Overall, I felt it was a healthy discussion about a very interesting and relevant topic. The audience ruled out stricter laws and fines because it felt that approach was too harsh and would not deter students from using Adderall. Some students favored decriminalization while others were completely against it. As for reforming the educational system, everyone seemed to like the idea of it but agreed that it may not be feasible. Although there were differing opinions, I thought it was a well-controlled, worthwhile discussion that I am happy I got to participate in.
In my previous blog posts, I discussed the plight of Baltimore’s educational system, as well as the drug epidemic that has earned Baltimore the title of “heroin capital of the United States.” While discussing the issues of urban America, it is important to recognize that each problem is intertwined, impacting all aspects of the city. For example, turning to drug dealing as a means of making money frequently culminates in school dropout, further aggravating the problem low educational attainment and reduced rates of achievement. In addition, drug addiction can lead many individuals to life of crime as they desperately seek money to support their habit. I would like to use this next post to explore the recent spike in violent crime in Baltimore, examining both drug-related and non-drug related offenses.
On august 7, 2015, The Baltimore Brew released a chilling article about the crime rates in Baltimore. Unfortunately, the city so dear to me has recently surpassed Detroit in the number of homicides, thus being deemed the second deadliest city in the United States, behind St. Louis. From January 2015 to July 2015, 189 killings were reported in Baltimore. That is 64% more homicides than in 2014. Statistics show that there are around 30 killings per every 100,000 citizens. Citizens and city officials struggled to understand this rapid uptick in violent crime.
According to the Baltimore Brew, there are several factors that may be relevant in understanding the unexpected rise of homicides. Police Commissioner, Kevin Davis, places the blame on easy access to guns and accompanying gang-related violence. As an attempt to understand and discuss the rise in violence, the Major Cities Chief Police Association hosted a meeting in Washington D.C. During this meeting, D.C. Police Chief, Cathy L. Lanier, explained that the homicides taking place in dangerous cities, such as Baltimore, are no longer between a lone gunman and his victim, but rather gunplay between multiple individuals armed with highly lethal weapons. Baltimore Police have made 22% more gun arrests in an attempt to curb the violence. However, this may have had the opposite effect with regard to attitudes about the police.
In the city of Baltimore, many neighborhoods with a low socioeconomic status have developed a deep contempt and mistrust for the police. An example of this animosity for police was apparent in the chaos that erupted following Freddie Gray’s death while in custody of the Baltimore City Police.. Freddie Gray was an African American man arrested by the Baltimore City Police who died while being transported in a police van on April, 2015. At some point in police custody, Gray suffered an injury to the spinal cord, which ultimately lead to his death. The six officers involved in his death are charged with manslaughter, false arrest, as well as reckless endangerment. Following Gray’s death, on April 25, 2015, a peaceful protest took a deadly turn resulting fires, looting, and several arrests in the City of Baltimore. Some individuals believe that the rise in homicides in Baltimore may be due to what is known as the “Ferguson Effect.” This theory links protests of police violence towards African Americans to a spike in crime rates. Others speculate that police may be “standing down” or less aggressive for fear they will be criticized for the manner in which they do their job.
However, Stephanie Rawling-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore, argues that the rise of homicides in Baltimore does not have anything to do with Freddie Gray or less aggressive policing. Rather, she claims that increase in crimes has to do with drugs, escalating gang violence, and easy access to guns. She also goes on to state that the rise in homicides is a national issue, not just a Baltimore issue, that needs to be addressed by the government.
In attempt to solve the problem at a local level, FBI agents have been assigned to work with local Baltimore detectives to try and investigate unsolved homicides. In addition, the police department is going through several reformations and adjustments, including the retirement of several high-ranking officers.
Statistics shows that the vast number of homicides that take place in Baltimore have to do with gang-violence, drugs, and easy access to guns. While the rate of homicides has risen sharply this year, there is no clear strategy to reduce these numbers. Perhaps the United States should consider the revision of its gun policies with the aim of reducing access, especially for highly lethal automatic weapons. Concurrently, cities such as Baltimore, must address the vexing problem of drug addiction, limited access to drug treatment, drug trade, and the resultant gang violence driving crime statistics.
In my last blog post I discussed the difficulties evident in Baltimore’s primary and secondary educational system. I offered several factors that may contribute to the poor performance of the system including the lack of value and emphasis on educational achievement, limited qualified teachers, and scarce financial resources. One of the primary factors offered as impacting Baltimore’s educational system was the city’s drug trade. In this blog post I would like to delve deeper into Baltimore’s drug trade and the devastating consequences it has inflicted upon Baltimore.
In a recent article released by ABC News, Carter M. Yang, the author of the article, characterized Baltimore as the heroin capital of the United States of America. According to Yang’s article, 60,000 of the 645,000 residents in Baltimore are addicted to drugs and 48,000 are addicted to heroin.
Heroin is a highly addictive narcotic painkiller that is used recreationally for its euphoric effects. Heroin is so addictive that, according to the National Institute for Drug abuse, 23% of the 2.3 billion people who have used heroin become dependent on it. Long-term use of heroin results in deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which may affect decision-making abilities and judgment. Unfortunately, as users begin to experiment with heroin, they develop a tolerance, meaning they must increase their dosage each time they choose to take the drug in order to achieve the same effect. This often results in physical and psychological addiction as well as fatal overdoses.
The drug problem is so intense in Baltimore that it has been declared part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This program was created in 1988 when Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The purpose of the Act is to reduce drug abuse by helping to provide law enforcement agencies with resources and enhance drug prevention and drug addiction programs.
According to Tom Carr, the head of the Washington and Baltimore HIDTA program, the heroin problem in Baltimore began in the 1950’s. Unfortunately, heroin use is integrated into the city’s urban culture. As I indicated in my previous post, using drugs and selling drugs has become an acceptable way of life for many adolescents and young adults in the city. Carr even went to far as to say that it is “a rite of passage,” for many young individuals in the community,
Drug use is not only detrimental to one’s individual health, but it also contributes to several of the city’s other problems. As I stated in my first post, the heroin epidemic in Baltimore has largely contributed to the failing educational system. In addition, drug use also plays a significant role in violent crime in the city. Many individuals end up involved in prostitution, robberies, or more serious crimes in order to support their habit.
Many politicians and citizens of Baltimore have been trying to come up with solutions to help put an end to this heroin epidemic. Some argue that there is no point in trying to stop it as the number of drug dealers and drug users rises annually. Also, Baltimore’s low-income neighborhoods and its location on the harbor make it prime target for drug dealers to ship drugs up and down the coast. Some individuals have proposed drug interdiction through the arrest and incarceration of both dealers and users. Others have suggested decriminalization for users and greater access to treatment alternatives. Still others focus on the high number of drug overdose deaths, seeking strategies to reduce the loss of life. In 2013 alone, 300 fatal heroin overdoses were reported in Baltimore. In response to this shocking amount of deaths, Baltimore City Police officers are required to carry naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose. Unfortunately, many users report a fear of going to prison and therefor are reluctant to call for help.
The heroin epidemic in Baltimore remains a significant and recalcitrant problem impacting every aspect of the city’s health and the wellbeing of its inhabitants. However, the city has yet to declare a state of emergency. Baltimore is the only major city on the East Coast that has not declared a state of emergency. As the number of drug dealers and drug consumers continue to rise, many wonder what actions the city can take to address the far-reaching effects of this epidemic.
For my civic issue blog I would like to discuss the struggles facing urban America and strategies to address them. Since I am from Baltimore, I will be using the city as my main point of focus. Each large city within the United States is famous for certain attractions, buildings, or activities. For example, when one hears of Baltimore, they may think of the Chesapeake Bay, the Ravens, our Inner-Harbor, or the National Aquarium. Unfortunately, the city is also known for its many challenges and struggles. Like many urban regions, Baltimore is also characterized by its impoverished educational system, poverty, crime, and ill health. For my first post, I would like to discuss Baltimore’s primary and secondary public schools.
While Baltimore is home to several impressive universities, such as University of Maryland at Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University, its public school system is not quite as prestigious. For example, as of 2014, the graduation rate for Baltimore City public schools was 56.4%. This number is drastically less than other surrounding suburban counties, such as Carroll Country, with a 93.5% graduation rate. Additionally, statistics show that Baltimore City has one of the highest dropout rates in the nation and over 10% of its residents have not passed the ninth grade. These numbers are shocking and disheartening. Many factors contribute to these statistics and leave the residents of Baltimore discouraged, angry, and indignant.
Fortunately, Science Digest ( xxxx) conducted a study to try to uncover the reasons behind the poor educational system of the city. First, Science Digest reports that drugs are a large contributor to the failing education system. According to statistics, from 2000-2001, juvenile drug related arrests climbed from 29% to 33%. In addition, in 2002, juveniles living in Baltimore city accounted for 20% of the state’s hospitalizations for drug use. But abusing substances is not the only way that drugs have affected the education system in Baltimore. Unfortunately, selling drugs seems to have become an acceptable way of life for many school-aged youngsters in the city. Many inner-city youth reported looking up to drug-dealers and envious of their risky lifestyle. The world of drugs has been glamorized in series such as “The Wire,” and unfortunately, many young kids with little hope buy into the hype. Adolescents are led to believe that dealing drugs is an easy and quick way to obtain money, respect, and other desires. They may have little faith that their education will result in a better quality of life. Drug dealing requires a lot less effort than pursuing a career so many of Baltimore’s youth turn to this undesirable alternative.
Also, according to Science Digest, many adolescents in Baltimore report that they receive little or no encouragement to continue on the path of education. Their parents/ guardians do not push them to pursue an education nor do they instill just how valuable an education may be to their future. Race may play a role as well. Many young African Americans in Baltimore report that they feel there is no point in pursuing an education because even if they earn their diploma, they will never have the same opportunities as Caucasians. Clearly, based on this report from Science Digest, the education system in Baltimore is not serving its constituents and is in need of serious reform and improvement.
The authors of the Science digest article outlined several suggestions and changes that need to take place in order for the education system in Baltimore City to improve. First, parents and guardians need to instill the importance of education. As the individuals who are responsible for raising their children, they are also responsible for recognizing the value and benefits of a good education. It is imperative to teach the youth of Baltimore that drug dealing is not a viable option in building a better quality of life, but rather to strive for a higher education as means to shed poverty. Furthermore, there needs to be well-equipped and highly qualified teachers in every classroom. These teachers must not only be well versed in their teaching topics but also able to harness the qualities necessary to effectively teach in an inner-city school. Students with needs must be served in compliance with federal laws. Unfortunately drug-use and poverty are all too common problems within most large cities. Quality education must recognize the unique needs of this population, helping students recognize their self-worth and capacity to succeed in situations often void of hope. Teachers need to be patient and encourage their students to rise above their circumstances and see opportunities as a product of their education. In addition, Science Digest suggests that special schools be opened up to help those with more intensive behavioral needs, addictions, and learning differences. These schools will not only educate their students but directly address the problems endemic to cities such as Baltimore.
It is evident that the Baltimore City education system needs to be reformed and improved. Hopefully, with the infusion of resources, the help of the responsible citizens, and both political and community leadership, the city can began to build an improved education system that encourages and inspires Baltimore’s youth to embrace education as the best means of achieving a meaningful quality of life.
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