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Legislators, prison officials discuss staffing concerns

September 15, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

A group of legislators and state prison officials heard a request for restoration of staff positions Wednesday during a closed-door session with representatives from all three prisons in the complex south of Hagerstown.

Washington County Delegation Chairman Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said Division of Correction officials will consider the request and make a recommendation by October. He was unsure about the exact number of positions requested, but said it did not include all of the positions that have been cut during the past three years.

Correctional officers at the prisons have been complaining that staff cuts have presented security issues, and recent attacks by inmates on correctional officers increased that concern.

Mary J. Livers, deputy secretary for operations for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections; new Western Regional Assistant Commissioner Randy Watson; Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany; and Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington, attended the meeting.

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Shank said he believed the meeting was productive, and noted that officials already have changed the relief factor, improving relief ratios for some positions.

He said an emerging problem is finding enough staff to fill vacancies at the prisons.

"We can't go back to the General Assembly and say we need new (positions) when we have vacancies" that haven't been filled, Shank said.

Shank has asked the DOC to "make full-scale efforts to do creative things" to fill positions, such as hiring retired correctional officers to work part time.

Shank said Wednesday's meeting was a continuation of efforts by legislators to resolve issues between prison staff and the DOC.

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