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Out of prison, into Hagerstown

County officials discuss release policy with Md. attorney general

County officials discuss release policy with Md. attorney general

July 13, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - A group of Washington County officials visited Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday to discuss the state's prison-release policy.

As it stands, many of the prisoners from Western Maryland correctional institutions who aren't released to family members are dropped off in Hagerstown, City Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

"There's no requirement that they have to leave," he said. "One of the best predictors of human behavior is past human behavior ... We know that a lot of people who come out of (prison) do re-offend."

Smith said the attorney general offered to write a letter to the Maryland Division of Correction to discuss the matter further.

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"He was very supportive," Smith said. "He didn't think the current system was a good one."

Raquel Guillory, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said Gansler was empathetic with the issues that were taken to him Wednesday.

Discussions to change the release policy have stalled in the past, Smith said, but he was hopeful that the new Division of Correction leadership might look at the problem differently.

Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said he wants the Division of Correction to start releasing inmates where they were arrested.

The attorney general doesn't have the authority to change the state's policy but could provide political influence to open further dialogue with other state officials, Mullendore said.

Division of Correction spokesman Mark A. Vernarelli said the Division of Correction takes the matter seriously and would continue to address the community's concerns.

It was agreed upon after city officials and Division of Correction officials reviewed data last winter that inmate releases from Western Maryland prisons didn't have the "impact on the community that had been perceived," he said.

The Division of Correction has undertaken major studies to determine, as best it can, how to answer questions surrounding inmate releases, Vernarelli said.

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