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Prisons and rehabilitation

February 15, 2007

In his visit to the state prison complex south of Hagerstown this week, Gov. Martin O'Malley promised that safety would not be compromised to pay for the rehabilitation of inmates.

We welcome O'Malley's commitment to the safety of correctional officers and inmates. But we hope he will be as forceful when he tries to persuade those who don't believe in spending on rehabilitation that it actually saves money in the long run.

It costs more than $25,000 a year to house an inmate in the Maryland system. Research shows that inmates who receive skilled training or education are much less likely to return to prison. And, as the number of inmates aged 55 or over has grown, prison health-care costs have increased, too.

And as we confirmed earlier this month, every inmate-on-inmate assault at the local state prison complex is prosecuted at Washington County taxpayers' expense.

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So when new training programs are announced, remember two things - most inmates now in the system will eventually be released. And those who have a way to earn a living (other than criminal activity) are less likely to return.

Prisons ought not to be country clubs, but they are called correctional institutions because they are supposed to correct the behavior that brought the inmates there.

A prison is like a school in that its "graduates" shouldn't be failing at life.

Yes, prisons need to be safe and violent inmates should be kept out of the general population. But for those who want to learn - and taxpayers who don't want to pay for "repeat business" - there should be training to allow inmates to begin a new and lawful life.

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