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New prison warden eschews autocratic model

January 23, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

J. Michael Stouffer may be warden of the Maryland Correctional Training Center, but he believes running the facility is more than a one-person job.

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Stouffer, 44, said he rejects the outdated concept of an autocratic warden and uses a team-management system to keep the maximum- security prison and its nearly 3,000 male inmates in line.

His team system makes problem-solving every employee's job, he said. "It's the most efficient way to do business."

He regularly solicits the opinions of his employees, particularly Assistant Warden Princeton Young, and embraces diversity.

"I don't want to be surrounded by 'yes' people," he said.

Last fall Stouffer was promoted from assistant warden following the retirement of Richard Moats.

Because of the good foundation Moats laid, "we aren't reinventing, but reaffirming the team-management concept," said Stouffer.

Moats said he and Stouffer worked closely together and complemented each other.

"I think he will do a good job as warden. He's a team player and understands the needs of the prison system," said Moats.

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A native of Smithsburg, Stouffer was raised on a 75-acre farm. His mother was homemaker and his father worked at the Hagerstown Mack Trucks plant.

Stouffer said he knew early on he didn't want a career as a farmer, and after graduating from Smithsburg High School in 1973 he decided to further his education.

He got a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Baltimore at Hagerstown Community College, graduating summa sum laude in 1989, he said.

Stouffer's career in law enforcement started in 1976 with a three-year stint with the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

He worked at the detention center for a year and was a resident deputy in Smithsburg until 1979.

Stouffer said he left because of a change in the political climate at the Sheriff's Department, and in 1980 he became a correctional officer at Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown.

"It was of those things that occur that change your future forever. But I'm pleased with the way things are," said Stouffer.

Stouffer said when he first took the job at MCI-Hagerstown he never anticipated he would eventually become a prison warden.

In the subsequent years Stouffer worked at various Maryland prisons, including Roxbury Correctional Institution and Maryland Correctional Training Center.

He was promoted every two to three years during his career, holding the positions of correctional officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, correctional security chief, acting deputy commissioner of the Division of Correction, assistant warden and warden.

Becoming an administrator was the right step for Stouffer, he said.

"I really enjoy doing policy and procedure. I fell into the role naturally," he said.

Since becoming warden at MCTC, Stouffer has been involved in a re-evaluation of the facility's security system following an inmate's escape last summer.

Raymond Eric Dodd, 24, of Landover, Md., escaped July 12, 1999, during his shift as a prison janitor at MCTC.

He was serving an 18-year sentence for armed robbery and is scheduled to serve a Washington, D.C., sentence of 10 years to life for manslaughter when he completes the Maryland sentence.

Dodd was later recaptured in the Baltimore area and is now serving time in a prison there, he said.

After Dodd's escape, "We took a good hard look and we tweaked a few things," Stouffer said.

An updated electronic perimeter fence scheduled to be installed this year around the prison was planned previously.

Other capital projects are in the works. Among them is the expansion of the prison dining room, dispensary and commissary. Also, the prison is replacing windows in the housing units. In the next six years, the prison plans to add an inmate clothing building, three Quonset hut dormitories and an emergency dormitory.

"The bottom line is our processes are sound, our people are outstanding and the security is fine," said Stouffer.

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