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Governor to issue a statement on prisons

January 12, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Gov. Robert Ehrlich is expected to make a major announcement Friday regarding the state's prisons, according to the governor's press office.

Ehrlich spokesperson Rosa Cruz said Ehrlich would be making a budget announcement that would affect prisons "in an important way" during a visit to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women at Jessup.

Ehrlich told The Herald-Mail in October that his budget proposal for fiscal year 2007 likely would include additional positions at the prisons.

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Cruz would not confirm that Ehrlich planned to unveil a proposal for added personnel, but said his announcement would be important for Western Maryland, "especially since people in Western Maryland are so disgruntled" about prison issues.

"It might make them think twice about being so critical about the administration," she said.

Correctional officers at the three state prisons south of Hagerstown have complained for some time that staff cuts made by Mary Ann Saar, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, have left the prisons understaffed and exposed them to potential danger.

Reported assaults on correctional officers at two Hagerstown prisons during 2005 and the assault that sent three correctional officers from Allegany County's North Branch Correctional Institution to the hospital earlier this month led local prison staff to complain loudly - again - to the Washington County Delegation as they prepared to begin this year's General Assembly.

Some told the delegates that correctional officers are so fearful for their safety that they choose to take time off rather than report for work.

Delegation Chairman Christopher B. Shank said Wednesday he did not know exactly what Ehrlich planned to announce, but expected it to affect the Hagerstown complex. Shank, along with most Western Maryland legislators, has been lobbying Ehrlich for action on the correctional officers' complaints.

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