Recidivism rates and prison conditions

August 26, 2007|By BOB BRUCHEY

I read with great interest the letters in Saturday's Opinion section from inmates who are incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution. As a former correctional officer and lifelong resident of Hagerstown, as well as being the mayor of Hagerstown, I felt compelled to share my thoughts as well.

I will address inmate Phillip Jones' comments about release points first. As the chief elected official of the City of Hagerstown, it is my responsibility to assure our citizens that they can live in a safe city without fear of outside forces reigning terror in our community. Yes, we have our problems like everywhere else, but why should we risk the possibility of increasing our problems with ex-offenders who are released from our three institutions on Roxbury Road?

Inmate Jones disagrees with those police and elected officials who are in the process of trying to enact change within the Division of Correction in the way inmates, upon release, are left on their own to comply with either their home plan or to reach their probation jurisdiction.


Jones suggests in his letter that Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith is wrong about the fact that "a lot of people who come out of prison do re-offend," claiming that the chief obviously doesn't have the information to sustain his claims.

Upon doing some research, I have found that according to The Open Society Institute, 64 percent of released inmates do re-offend and 41 percent of those are reincarcerated.

Using this information, I would agree that "a lot of people who come out of prison do re-offend."

It is my understanding that upon release, inmates are given money for a bus ticket to their destinations. Jones would lead you to believe in his letter that inmates are left to fend for themselves to get to their destinations. Not so.

The solution, of course, as I have stated time and time again, is to return these ex-offenders to the jurisdictions where they came via the DOC transportation division. That would put them in their respective counties where their parole and probation officers are located. This gives them every advantage to do the right thing at the very start and not end up in Hagerstown where they might commit some crime against a person in this community.

Now, quickly, inmate Shahan claims that inmates are mistreated and made to do terrible things such as clean up feces and such. Sorry, no compassion here. I myself, and many correctional officers, have had to do the very same in the past when inmates were on administrative segregation for one reason or another. If it wasn't beneath me to do it, it surely isn't beneath you to do it.

I have had many inmates on medication for mental health reasons, and I know that the Division of Correction does everything within its rights and limits to make sure that inmates who are in need of medication and treatment for mental health issues receive that treatment.

Don't get me wrong, are innocent people incarcerated in the DOC? Yes. But it is sure that unless you have committed a serous, violent crime, or have been charged and found guilty of a major felony, in these liberal times that we live in, you don't end up in a state institution the first time.

The bottom line is this - if you weren't a resident of Hagerstown or Washington County before your incarceration, we definitely don't want you as one when you are released.

Bob Bruchey is mayor of Hagerstown.

The Herald-Mail Articles