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MCI officer wins state honor

June 07, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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FlaniganMCI officer wins state honor

It didn't take Douglas Flanigan long to pick up nicknames at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown.

The inmates tagged him, "Ticketron" for his prolific habit of writing up prisoners who violate the rules.

Flanigan, who picked up a plaque in Ocean City, Md., on Sunday honoring him as one of the state's two correctional officers of the year, said the name is one of many.

"It makes me kind of laugh. I kind of take it as a compliment," he said. "A lot of them probably don't mean it that way."

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Nor do they earn praise with their other nicknames, some of which can't be printed in a family newspaper.

Flanigan said it is all part of the job. And while walking the halls of a medium-security prison can be hair-raising, it is hardly the first time Flanigan has faced danger.

The Waynesboro, Pa., resident was a member of an elite military intelligence unit that intercepted and transcribed communications from East Germany during the Cold War.

Flanigan, 40, said most of his work is classified. But he said his unit won the prestigious Travis Trophy for its accomplishments.

The best honor, however, came Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. For a generation, it stood as one of the most visible symbols of communist oppression, keeping East Berliners out of the west.

"I believe the wall may not have fallen if not for the work we had done," he said. "That was the ultimate for a German linguist It shows that a lot of people who died for that wall, trying to fight it - they didn't die in vain."

Flanigan, who has several chunks of the wall at his home, said he predicted in early 1989 that the wall would fall before his tour of duty ended in 1991. He said National Security Agency experts dismissed him. But several months later, Germans were dancing in the streets.

"It's surprising, but it shouldn't have been surprising," he said.

Flanigan brings his military experience to MCI and still looks the part of the military police officer he once was. At 40, he remains trim and still sports a flattened crew cut.

"The Specialist" is one of the monikers inmates have pinned on him.

The Nebraska native came to the Tri-State area after leaving the military to work at his mother's costume shop in Frederick, Md. But the work was not steady enough, so he came to MCI six years ago.

He said he had hoped to work as a police officer. But an accident in Germany ended that goal. He said he was chasing a man who had broken into an Army depot when the cliff he was standing on gave way.

Flanigan fell about 40 feet, permanently damaging the ligaments in his ankle.

At MCI, he is a relief guard, moving from tier to tier. Flanigan said the job has given him a chance to experience every part of the prison and an understanding of how the operation works.

From the experience, Flanigan said he has taken the initiative to revise a training manual that was out of date. When he started, he said there was no formal written information.

"It was almost like they were afraid someone would learn more than the absolute minimum necessary," he said.

Flanigan's superiors give him high marks for training new correctional officers. He has trained 52 guards in the last three years.

Warden Lloyd "Pete" Waters said MCI has experienced high turnover since a new prison opened about a year and a half ago in Cumberland, Md.

"He's spent a lot of time training new correctional officers," he said. "We've had a quite a few new employees on his shift. We're loaded with new staff."

Waters said it is more than technique that makes Flanigan valuable.

"He's a young, enthusiastic kind of person. He's a good role model for new employees. He's thorough about his work," Waters said.

Flanigan, who is pursuing a bachelor's degree at Hood College in Frederick, said he tries to keep a sense of balance on the job.

"I think anyone who tells you they're not afraid in here, they're lying," he said. "You can't get complacent in here."

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