Vernarelli said safety will be the department's top priority as the program is phased in gradually.
As officers retire or leave, they'll be replaced by counselors and educators. Correctional officers are being encouraged to apply for the jobs, he said.
MCTC was chosen because it already has some programs in place that model RESTART, which stands for Re-entry, Enforcement and Services Targeting Addiction, Rehabilitation and Treatment.
One of them is a mentoring program that pairs young inmates with older inmates and correctional officers.
With 2,900 inmates, MCTC is the single largest male prison in the state, Vernarelli said.
More than one-third of the inmates there are age 25 and younger, which makes them good candidates for rehabilitation, he said.
"We thought this was the ideal location," he said.
Ehrlich had wanted to implement RESTART statewide.
Instead, the legislature cut its budget by more than half, to $1.2 million, and asked that the program be tested on a smaller scale first.
An October study suggested that MCTC could safely cut 29 of its 459 positions.
AFSCME has disputed the study, which claimed that the three-prison complex south of Hagerstown was overstaffed.
The study said the prisons could safely operate with 143 fewer correctional officers out of 1,228.
MCTC Warden J. Michael Stouffer could not be reached for comment Thursday.