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Case managers want better prison retirement plan

February 14, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Employees from a Washington County state prison were among those pressing lawmakers on Tuesday to broaden the state's correctional retirement system.

At a bill hearing, correctional case managers said they have much of the same training, work and risks as correctional officers - but a more restrictive retirement system.

Correctional officers can retire after 20 years of service at age 55, according to the fiscal note on a bill sponsored by Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

Correctional case managers are only eligible to retire after 30 years and must be at least 60 or 62 years old, depending on the system to which they belong.

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The Correctional Officers' Retirement System also offers more generous death benefits, the fiscal note says.

Correctional case managers said their duties include assigning jobs to inmates, overseeing their work details, making recommendations about security, assisting during lockdowns and backing up correctional officers during riots.

"We're pretty much a Swiss Army knife in the Division of Correction," Thomas Nittinger, a correctional case management specialist supervisor at Maryland Correctional Training Center, told the House Appropriations Committee.

Donoghue's bill would bring about 300 correctional case managers across the state into the Correctional Officers' Retirement System.

There are 28 correctional case managers, including supervisors, at MCTC, Nittinger said.

The three Washington County state prisons combined have about 60 correctional case managers, said Todd McKenrick, an MCTC correctional case management specialist.

The overall retirement system change would cost about $16.4 million, starting with $1.1 million in fiscal year 2009, the bill's fiscal note says.

Last year, correctional supply officers, dietary officers and maintenance officers were added to the Correctional Officers' Retirement System, but correctional case managers were overlooked, McKenrick said.

More than 20 Maryland correctional case managers sat in the audience for the hearing, including Nittinger, McKenrick and Michael Lichtenberg Jr., also of MCTC.

Lichtenberg testified that correctional case managers face the same stress and the same threats, including hit lists from inmate gangs.

On the Web at mlis.state.md.us: HB 402

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