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Politicians in prison, just visiting

New Md. lawmakers hear about rehab and 'staying alive'

New Md. lawmakers hear about rehab and 'staying alive'

December 14, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

A busload of soon-to-be state legislators stopped at a prison in Washington County on Tuesday as part of a three-day, two-night lesson about Maryland.

The lawmakers-elect - about 40 from the House of Delegates and the Senate - spent 2 1/2 hours at Maryland Correctional Training Center, south of Hagerstown.

They stepped inside a cell, heard about rehabilitation strategies and listened to inmates say their lives are on a better path.

A stop scheduled for an hour and 15 minutes stretched twice as long.

The freshmen lawmakers from across the state, plus legislative staff members, had a far-flung itinerary.

After leaving the prison, they were to stay in Washington County for a visit to Greenbrier State Park near Boonsboro.

The rest of their scheduled tour, which ends Thursday, included the redeveloped Silver Spring, the University of Maryland at College Park, a Prince George's County elementary school, Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County, an oyster hatchery and the Wye Institute on the Eastern Shore.

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Prison officials brought in five MCTC inmates on Tuesday to tell incoming legislators about programs that changed how they think and behave.

One prisoner said it took him a while to realize that, as a drug dealer, he was no better than a drug addict. In fact, he also was addicted, to selling.

Another prisoner said he has learned to think before he acts.

Another inmate described a program that teaches parenting, expressing emotions and other social skills.

The tour introduced the lawmakers-elect to MCTC's "therapeutic community," a treatment program run by contract by a company called Gaudenzia.

"Being tough on crime doesn't mean 'lock 'em up and throw away the key,'" so the state has hired more social workers, addiction counselors and psychologists to work with prisoners, Richard Rosenblatt said.

Rosenblatt is the assistant secretary for treatment services for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The state Division of Correction is part of DPSCS.

A correctional officer leading a small group of elected lawmakers on the tour said officers often know less about programs than the inmates.

Asked by one incoming lawmaker to name the toughest challenge in his job, the officer said, "Staying alive."

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