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Latest letters

February 06, 2007

New Public Safety Chief needs a Plan



To the editor:

Gary Maynard, has been selected to lead the Maryland Department of Public Safety out of four years of chaos, misdirection, and enough measured failures (i.e. murder of two correctional officers, increase in gang activity, escalation in staff accident leave expenditures, doubling of overtime dollars, and inmate homicides and violence) to create a nightmare for any new manager. His resume suggests he is well traveled, has some professional experiences and academic credentials. Whether or not he is up to the task is dependent on his leadership skills and his ability to navigate through the bureaucracy of government to implement those changes that are sorely needed. From my 34 years of experience in the prison system, I would offer a few words of advice..

Take time to understand the organization and operation of the Department of Public Safety and get familiar with the system before you make any wholesale changes.

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Build yourself a good team, not of political cronies and those people who have grown too fond of politics, their offices and government, but those who have some battle grown experiences and understand the real problems of walking the beat within the prison walls.

Invest a great deal of your time to understanding the many and varied problems of the system. Establishing some measuring parameters to gauge your success and start with a few of those areas mentioned above.

Take a serious look at training. I believe it to be inadequate especially for your custody staff. What worked 30 years ago will not work today. Staff and inmate generations have produced significant changes.

The last four years have seen a serious increase in violence. Pledge to your staff to promote "security" first in the prisons and make that your priority before anything else. No programs will succeed without it.

The reentry of inmates back into the community is an important aspect of reducing recidivism and avoiding the additional cost of prison construction. Abandon the use of the term RESTART which is associated with reduction of security, positions and increase in overtime. Focus on reentry for inmates but recognize that the community who produced the criminal is the same community receiving him or her back and those inherent problems of that entity.

Recognize that good treatment programs require good security.

Can you imagine how inmates can go to school and attend self help programs part of the day, and be housed in a double cell, eat and recreate with gang members the rest of the day? Which education do you think has the most profound influence?

Recognize that having custody staff work 6 or 7 days a week because of staff shortages and other variables reduces the effectiveness of this staff and promotes burnout.

Finally, take some time to have some serious and wholesome debate with your staff even if you think you know the answer to your problem. Don't display that pathetic attitude of "it's my way or the highway" kind of thinking. Those leaders never experience any lasting success.

Oh, in regard to success, your predecessor had a fondness for quoting Emerson and his definition of success which partly suggests that to succeed is "to leave the world a better place". I have not talked to many people who believe that her leadership has resulted in a better place for the Department of Public Safety, but perhaps she has another perspective. The staff and inmates of your agency are hoping that you can make a better place for them in Public Safety. I am equally hoping you apply Emerson's definition of success and work very hard to succeed in making the Department of Public Safety a better place.your agency and our state deserves the same.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters
Sharpsburg




Is it "fundamentalist" or "literalist"?



To the editor:

The letters from Allan Powell and the rebuttal from Chad Gross point out the major division in the Christian church since the Reformation (and before if you look into church history.) It comes down to an argument over the authority of the Holy Scriptures - the Bible. More precisely, it is an argument over Biblical interpretation and the authoritative weight given to its interpretation.

First, I would like to take issue with Mr. Powell's use of the descriptor "fundamentalist." I suggest that "Biblical literalist" is more accurate. Those who believe that the Bible they read is the exact, inerrant word of God, and is factually true, are Biblical literalists. Those who believe that the Bible as we know it is theologically true, but not necessarily factual fall into the other group that unfortunately doesn't have a proper descriptor.

Second, there is the difference between fact and truth. "Truth" is the meaning that people put to facts based upon their belief system and knowledge. There are many of us who believe the Bible can be true without being factually accurate. Others insist the Bible is factually accurate and use those "facts" to "prove" it is true.

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