Give the correctional officers their due

February 13, 2005|by Elaine Gladhill

To the editor:

In response to Kevin Cotton's letter to the editor: I am an correctional officer at Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, and these are my views. Project RESTART is a good project if it is administered correctly.

1. The information that was put out to inmates, as well as officers, between June and August 2003 was misleading to both. Officers, as well as inmates, were informed by way of memos and information bulletins that certain posts were cut due to a "budget crisis."

With this loss of security posts came the loss of correctional officers - line staff. At the same time, DOC administrators were promoting and creating more positions with bigger salaries - so where is this budget crisis?


2. November of 2003 brought the memo of Project RESTART along with the information released about the post and staffing analysis completed within the DOC.

This analysis stated it found that there were 200-plus correctional officers in excess of what DOC needed to operated the facilities safety. What it didn't mention was that this excess of correctional officers was largely due to post cuts at the facilities.

Again, with fewer posts comes less staffing. Now I will ask, did this really make our facilities safer? The DOC called this "right sizing." Now we aren't saying it's a budget crisis anymore, but Project RESTART. Meanwhile, DOC officials continued to created more positions in upper management.

3. In December 2003, a new staffing plan came out, with more than 50 post cuts and 90 fewer correctional officers - direct line staff. From December 2003 through December 2004 we lost more than 100 correctional officers through cuts, as stated, plus vacancies. Now I would like to remind all that Project RESTART isn't at our facility. However, our facility paid the highest price of this pilot program. What did we gain by "right sizing" our facility? Mandatory overtime for staff and more recreation time for our inmates.

4. Now let me set the record straight. Staff has asked/suggested, to no avail, a few things:

· Revamp the educational system. Inmate tutors are an asset to our educational system, so reward them. Allow them more work credits by helping other inmates to get though their education. Or allow them to get their teaching degree so that when they get out, they can teach in their communities at adult educational centers.

Inmates are sitting idle in school, so don't grant them their work credits until they complete their education. If no progress in school is made in an allotted time, reassign these inmates so that others can take advantage of the educational programs.

· Use our facilities' assets. Revamp the State Use Industries shops for use by the minimum-security inmates or the inmates who will be getting released soon. They offer a work trade and are the better paying job assignments within our institutions. When they leave, they will have a trade and money in their pockets that they have earned.

· Place all minimum security and soon-to-be-released inmates in one centralized location. Our facility has a housing unit that houses up to 384 inmates. Use that housing for these inmates.

This would allow them to be able to assist each other, since they would be of the same mind-set of going home. This area has already in place its own yard, offices for case management and offices for counseling and treatment.

In closing, I hope all will see that correctional officers have ideas that are workable without extra funds. However, they fall on deaf ears. I hope that the inmates realized that there need to be a few adjustments on their part to make Project RESTART work and for a better chance of life outside the walls to work.

Better lines of communication are much needed.

Elaine Gladhill
Waynesboro Pa.

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