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Myers retires after 40 years at prison

January 28, 2002

Myers retires after 40 years at prison



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY
andreabh@herald-mail.com


Maj. Gene Myers will retire Feb. 1 from Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown after working at the prison complex for 40 years.

Myers has worked under about 10 different wardens at all three prisons in the complex since he started working for the state in 1962, he said.

He's seen two prisons built on land that served as a working penal farm when he started working at the Maryland Reformatory for Males - now the Maryland Correctional Institution - as a clerk after graduating from Boonsboro High School, he said.

"I've seen corrections just take a complete turn," said Myers, 58, of Knoxville. "If you're going to be a correctional officer, you have to be able to adjust to change."

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Myers has seen plenty of change at the prison complex.

The Maryland Reformatory for Males became the Maryland Institution for Men and then the Maryland Correctional Institution within three years of Myers' 1962 hire date.

Years ago, inmates were allowed to participate in a number of recreational activities in the community. They were trained to work on the farm instead of receiving the educational training now common in prisons, Myers said.

He remembers helping recapture inmates who escaped while working on the penal farm and on-site cannery.

"At that time, it wasn't uncommon for someone to just walk off," Myers said.

Wardens once had complete authority over all aspects of the prison, he said, but that power has shifted over the years to state corrections officials.

His ability to change, and the change he brought about himself by applying for promotions, buoyed Myers' staying power at the prison, he said.

The changes helped break the monotony of a job defined by routine, he said.

He left the clerk's office to become a correctional officer in 1965. Myers worked with inmates from the time he woke them on his tier until the lights went out at night. He walked them to the infirmary, their job posts and their recreational activities. He handled just about all their requests.

"A correctional officer is like a parent to the inmates," Myers said. "A lot of the inmates probably have more supervision locked up than they did as kids on the street. Maybe that's part of the reason they're locked up."

Within three years of becoming a guard, Myers transferred to the newly built Maryland Correctional Training Center. He declined his first big promotion because he wanted to spend more time with his growing family, and waited about 12 years for his next chance to become a sergeant. Myers was promoted to sergeant in 1979.

As a "lead man," he said, he added some supervisory responsibilities to his work with prisoners. His supervisory duties increased when he was promoted to lieutenant in 1982.

When Roxbury Correctional Institution opened in 1983, Myers worked on the transition team to get everything in place before prisoners arrived. The operations lieutenant scheduled his day-shift correctional officers. His command area grew again when he was promoted to operational captain in 1989. When he earned the rank of major in 1998, Myers was in charge of an entire shift.

"That's when the buck stops with you," he said.

The pay increases with each promotion and promise of good retirement benefits prompted Myers to continue working at the prison after the first 20 years, he said. He thought often about leaving before he began climbing the officers' ranks because his work in the early years left him without much feeling of accomplishment, he said.

"I never thought I'd be there this long," Myers said. "You get to a point and you just keep going and going and going."

Myers accrued enough compensatory time during his tenure as a supervisor to stop active duty at RCI before his retirement date. He said he now plans to find a part-time job to keep busy.

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