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Prisons prepare for Y2K

December 27, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Y2K preparedness at Maryland's prisons is of particular concern in Washington County, where nearly one-third of all state prisoners are housed.

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State officials say they are ready. And the wardens of the three Hagerstown-area prisons, which house more than 6,800 of the state's 21,000-plus inmates, echo that confidence.

Increased staffing will be in place for the Dec. 31, 1999-Jan. 1, 2000 event as well as K-9 teams positioned at each state prison.

That increase in staff will include the wardens of the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, Maryland Correctional Training Center and Roxbury Correctional Institution.

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Leonard Sipes, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said all cell door systems are ready and all electronic security systems are in place.

"But after midnight on New Year's Eve, all cell doors will be manually locked, even though the default systems automatically lock all doors in the event of power disruptions," Sipes said.

"We've gone the extra 10 yards to make sure we're ready," said MCTC Warden Mike Stouffer of his institution, which has the largest inmate population (2,893) in the state.

Stouffer, who took over in August when Ronald Moats retired, said the command center for the western region will be located at MCTC through the Y2K transition.

Tactical teams will also be on alert in every region of the state. The western region includes all three Hagerstown-area prisons and Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland.

"I will be here Friday night and will stay over into the weekend," said MCI-H Warden Lloyd "Pete" Waters. All employee holidays, vacation and personal days have been postponed.

Stouffer said he also will be at his post.

"Nonperishable bag lunches will be prepared," Sipes said. He noted that adequate amounts of food and other supplies have been ordered in preparation for all facilities.

Waters said he is aware of the steps that the dietary departments have taken but he doesn't expect to serve bag lunches unless it is absolutely necessary.

Sipes said power generators are all Y2K ready.

Vehicles will be topped off with fuel, manual cranks have been made available for all fuel pumps, and underground tanks have been filled, he said.

RCI Warden Joseph Sacchet said planning began last January and has been ongoing at his institution, which houses 1,906 inmates.

"There is an ample supply of food and water on hand and a menu that will allow meals to be served no matter what," Sacchet said.

But he doesn't see "no matter what" as an option. "Every scenario has been explored," he said, noting that he has a 40-page manual that has been followed to the letter.

Closer to home, the Washington County Detention Center has also done its homework on Y2K emergency preparedness.

"We've stockpiled food for about four weeks," said Sgt. Edward S. Long. Normally, there is two to three days' worth of food on site.

Water supplies are also abundant at the jail, Long said.

Security has been beefed up, but Long, who said there have been meetings on Y2K since June, doesn't expect any problems.

"We're as ready as ready can be," Long said.

All the hubbub aside, Waters noted there have been substantial benefits reaped from all this preparedness.

Computer and telephone equipment throughout the state prison system has been upgraded in preparation for Y2K. And their benefits will be around long after the new year begins, Waters said.

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