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MCI's warden set to retire

May 13, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

He likes to quote Socrates and Winston Churchill, but when Lloyd L. "Pete" Waters first came to the Maryland Correctional Institution he says he felt more like Wyatt Earp.

Waters became warden in 1991, just after a major riot at the prison south of Hagerstown.

At times, he said, he felt like the Wild West lawman while restoring peace to the prison.

"There was so much turmoil and so much violence there had to be a certain amount of law," said Waters, who is retiring this month after 34 years with the Maryland Division of Corrections.

Waters transformed the medium-security prison from one where all inmates were confined to their cells for a safety "lockdown" to one where all but 50 of the 2,100 men have privileges such as recreation time.

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There have been no major disturbances under Waters' 12-year watch at MCI and complaints from inmates and staff have dropped, Waters said.

Waters, 54, said he used a combination of motivation and positive and negative reinforcement.

"I try to be fair. I try to be approachable. I like people, whether they work here or are incarcerated here," he said.

He is the longest-serving state prison warden in Maryland and the longest-serving warden at one Maryland prison, according to Mark Vernarelli, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Waters started out as a correctional officer in 1969. Now that he's on the verge of retiring from the $88,000-a-year job, Waters said he draws on his love for philosophy.

He said he tries to make the inmates better people when they leave by providing the educational, mental and spiritual opportunities that give them a better chance at not returning.

Waters said Greek philosopher Socrates had a disdain for politicians and bureaucrats.

But Waters denies that he's a bureaucrat. Bureaucrats, he said, don't know how things are done in an organization on a day-to-day basis.

Waters began his career as a correctional officer and worked his way up the ladder.

Waters said he may one day run for public office, although he would not say which one.

Waters quotes Winston Churchill, who once said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

Waters has lived Churchill's words by uncovering and helping to restore an inmate graveyard on the prison grounds.

Waters was 20 years old when he took his first job at the prison complex south of Hagerstown right out of the U.S. Army and a tour in Vietnam.

While working full time, he earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md., and a master's degree in psychology from Hood College in Frederick, Md.

Why did Waters decide to hang it up now, when he could have retired years ago? Waters said he was asked to take the helm at nearby Roxbury Correctional Institution, but decided he would rather retire than start over at a new prison.

"I thought if I had to pick between Roxbury and Dargan (his home in southern Washington County), I'd pick Dargan," he said with a smile.

Replacing Waters at MCI will be Roxbury Correctional Institution Warden Joseph P. Sacchet.

Roderick Sowers, who used to be Waters' assistant at MCI, will take over as warden at Roxbury. He has been acting warden of a pre-release center in Jessup, Md.

Sacchet will sit at Waters' desk, which has a red phone sitting on the back corner that only rings when there's a crisis.

"I hope that one doesn't ring. I can't remember it ever ringing. I don't want it to ring while I'm sitting here," Waters said.

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