Detention Center officer honored for her efforts

September 27, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN - Sgt. Terri Blair's work has paid off for many inmates at the Washington County Detention Center over the years in areas such as counseling, job training and even parenting tips.

Now, that work has paid off for her as well, as Blair was named the state's top correctional officer by the Maryland Sheriff's Association.

On Sept. 11, Blair was awarded the association's 2004 Correctional Officer of the Year for her contribution to the profession, said Washington County Sheriff's Department Capt. Douglas Mullendore. Mullendore said it was the first year the association has given out the award.


Blair, a Keedysville resident and the inmate program supervisor at the Hagerstown-area detention center, coordinates a variety of educational and counseling programs for those being held as they await trial and for those sentenced to incarceration there.

"You try to teach them something while they're here," Blair said. "If you lock them up and throw away the key, they're not going to get any better off than when they came."

Blair said much of the success of the programs is due to the work of about 160 community volunteers and staff members.

"I do have wonderful people around that believe in this stuff," she said. "I couldn't do this without them."

Blair, a Williamsport native and a 1982 graduate of Williamsport High School, has worked at the detention center for 21 years. She said she started as a secretary in 1983 and, three years later, attended a six-week training course to become a correctional officer.

She has been moving up the ranks since.

Among the programs available to inmates inside the detention center walls are classes in parenting and self-help techniques, as well as mental health and substance-abuse counseling, Blair said. She said a program offering inmates a chance to earn a GED has been especially successful.

New to the detention center are several community-based programs that were approved by the state in October 2003, Blair said. The approval allowed selected inmates from the detention center to take part in programs that include daily work-release employment, home-detention monitoring and serving sentences on weekends.

Blair said violent criminals are not allowed to participate, but people who are awaiting trial for or have been convicted on charges such as driving while intoxicated or various misdemeanors can continue to work. She also said putting them in programs allows them to better contribute to the community, and it reduces the cost of keeping an inmate at the center.

"If we get somebody in there with a family and a good job, we'd want to get them into treatment so they can provide for their family, keep their job," she said. "If we don't, they might end up on welfare, and who is going to pay for that?"

The Herald-Mail Articles