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Additional correctional officers possible for area prisons

March 18, 2006|By TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS

The three prisons south of Hagerstown could get a total of 23 new correctional officers if the Maryland General Assembly approves a supplemental budget proposal by Gov. Robert Ehrlich, according to numbers released Friday by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

According to department spokesman Mark Vernarelli, Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown would get 17 new officers, Maryland Correctional Training Center would get two and Roxbury Correctional Institution would get four new officers.

These are in addition to filling vacancies already identified, which number about 50 among the five Western Maryland facilities - the three Hagerstown prisons and two near Cumberland. Six new positions are slated for the Cumberland facilities, Vernarelli said.

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"Our Hagerstown work force is outstanding, and we are trying every way we can to give them support," Vernarelli said. "Once the money comes in, the secretary determines who goes where, and those numbers (listed above) represent her plan to help the three Hagerstown prisons."

Vernarelli said 16 of the 160 positions would go to the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Md.

Ehrlich's supplemental budget calls for 160 total positions, and two legislative committees approved the positions this week.

While the budget document itself earmarked all the positions for prisons in Jessup and Baltimore, Ehrlich's office said Thursday that Secretary Mary Ann Saar could use some of the positions elsewhere. Ehrlich spokesman Greg Massoni told The Herald-Mail some of those positions would go to local prisons.

The question of where the positions would go was raised in both committees, however; first by Senate Majority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Thursday, then by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Norman Conway on Friday.

Both were assured by budget analysts that the positions could be spread to other prisons, and that the positions initially were assigned to the Jessup and Baltimore facilities to expedite the budget process.

Del. Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery, asked why so many new positions were warranted. "It seems like a significant increase," he said, adding that most Appropriations Committee members believed more officers were needed. "But shouldn't these be more evenly spread out from year to year?"

Warren Descheneaux, director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Department of Legislative Services, told Franchot the new positions were the result of a new analysis of staffing requirements.

He said Ehrlich was attempting this year both to raise salaries to help fill current vacancies, and to make sure the prisons had "enough bodies for staffing requirements."

Ehrlich was "doing it in one big lump," Descheneaux said.

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