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Mayor: Progress possible on inmate-release policy

July 19, 2007

Recently a group of local business professionals, law enforcement personnel and elected officials met with Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, about prisoner release policies within the Division of Correction. The meeting, I believe, was successful, not to the point where we received positive feedback on our recommendations on how to improve the DOC's current policy on prisoner release, but that a compromise was reached that would benefit Washington County.

Currently, the DOC inmates released from the state prisons in Washington County and Allegany County are transported to the Greyhound station on Md. 65 and left there to purchase a ticket to their home destination. This creates several negative possibilities for Washington County.

1. Although armed with $40 for a ticket, some inmates find their way across Md. 65 to the liquor store and spend their money on items not related to transportation.

2. Or, they just wait for the DOC van to leave and walk into town.

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The problems that these issues create are very real and not perceived, as was reported in a letter by DOC officials late last year. Ex-offenders end up staying in Hagerstown and not reporting to their respective parole and probation officers. This can sometimes last for months before they are violated and a warrant is issued for violation of probation.

But, before that happens, they can easily wander into the parole and probation office in Hagerstown and, in an effort to be more customer- friendly, officials will in turn take them, preventing any violation and they stay here.

As I said, a compromise was reached and the Attorney General has sided with our coalition and has agreed to send a letter recommending changes to the governor. These recommendations would be that prior to a release, the inmate would be transferred to the state corrections facility or local detention center (for those counties without a state facility) in the county where he was sentenced, then released from there.

This actually is advantageous to the released inmate - it puts him in the area where his parole and probation officer is and aids in his chances for success on the outside.

The coalition's recommendation was that all inmates, regardless of what county they were sentenced in, be transferred back to MRDCC (Maryland Reception Diagnostic Classification Center) where they are initially processed into the state system, and released from there. Makes sense - one intake, one out-processing location.

Once released from MRDCC, they could acquire transportation to their respective reporting county. Again, it makes sense, but the citizens of Baltimore would be outraged to have all those inmates released in their city. This I can relate to.

Of course this doesn't answer the problem of released inmates who are from out of state and their states not taking them back upon release. This is another issue altogether, but one we must try and find a solution for also.

I consider the help being offered by Attorney General Gansler a win for Hagerstown and Washington County that can have nothing but a positive impact on our community.




Robert Bruchey is the mayor of the City of Hagerstown.

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