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Corrections official says he has 'a sense of what's needed'

August 28, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - J. Michael Stouffer began his career as a correctional officer and eventually became a warden in a Washington County prison.

Stouffer said that experience as a warden at Maryland Correctional Training Center will help him in his new role as assistant commissioner for the Western Region of the Maryland Division of Correction. He was named to the post in mid-July after serving as warden of MCTC since 1999.

Stouffer, of Smithsburg, has worked at all three state prisons south of Hagerstown during his 30-year career in criminal justice.

"I think it gives you a sense of what's needed ... a familiarity with the operations," he said. "It's good to have a background with the institutions."

Stouffer said his roles as assistant commissioner are to the support the wardens in the region, to promote safety in the facilities and in the public, and to communicate with officials within the prisons.

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He oversees five correctional facilities: MCTC, Roxbury Correctional Institution, and Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown in Washington County, and Western Correctional Institution and North Branch Correctional Institution in Allegany County.

The five prisons have about 2,200 employees and house about 8,500 inmates.

"My goals are to facilitate communication between the field and headquarters staff, to be an advocate for the wardens and to respond to the concerns of communities where our facilities are located," Stouffer said.

At MCTC, Stouffer oversaw the transition to RESTART, Maryland's philosophical shift toward reducing recidivism by adding treatment, education, job skill and behavior modification programs for inmates. MCTC was the only men's prison with RESTART in the state, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said.

"You don't want (prisoners) to come back to prison and commit crimes against other folks once they're released," Stouffer said.

While he was warden at MCTC, Stouffer launched a violence reduction effort aimed at younger inmates, who make up a large part of MCTC's population.

"My biggest task is to help (wardens) do what they need to do," Stouffer said of his new role. "We have to focus on the safety of our facilities, and we'll continue to do that. We have to have safe facilities and work hard on public safety."

Stouffer replaces Randy Watson, who will be assistant commissioner for administrative services at Division of Correction headquarters in Baltimore.

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