Inmate release policy changed

August 29, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS


Inmates released from the three prisons south of Hagerstown who do not have a home plan for Western Maryland no longer will be dropped off at the Greyhound bus station in Hagerstown.

Those inmates and others released from two prisons in Cumberland, Md., will be released from the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore.

Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard announced the change Wednesday morning during a meeting with the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.


The new policy was signed by Michael Stouffer, acting commissioner of the Division of Correction, and took effect Monday.

"The way we were doing it didn't make sense," Maynard said. "I saw a flaw in it early on."

Inmates dropped off at the bus station were expected to report to parole and probation officers in other jurisdictions. Some of those offenders never reported. Instead, they stayed in Hagerstown and contributed to local crime, city officials and local legislators have said.

Changing the policy was the right thing to do for people in Western Maryland, Maynard said.

The Department of Parole and Probation performs a home and employment investigation - known as a home plan - before inmates are released, public information officer Elizabeth Bartholomew said.

Inmates will have to prove they have certain reasons for staying in Western Maryland, either because they were once residents or because they have family in the area, Bartholomew said.

Temporary addresses, like hotels and shelters, are not usually accepted as part of a home plan because they are unstable housing, a DOC spokesman said.

Releasing inmates from Baltimore will ensure they are released closer to their homes, families and re-entry services, a news release from the office of Gov. Martin O'Malley said.

A group of Washington County officials in July discussed the state's prison release policy with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

Corrections officials performed an "exhaustive study" of the releases in Hagerstown and Cumberland from January to June of this year, according to Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman Mark Vernarelli. The study showed the number of released inmates who stay isn't as high as many people think, he said.

Local elected officials commended Maynard for the policy change, but said it was only the first step in the right direction.

Hagerstown systematically picks up criminals from across the state through the prison system, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

"It never made sense just to drop them off at our bus station," he said.

Washington County is still affected by a "New York drug dealer problem," said Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington. Drug dealers from other states who commit their crimes in Washington County will still be released to the Hagerstown area, he said. Supervision by the Department of Parole and Probation actually keeps them in the area, Shank said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II called the policy change a victory, but said it wouldn't solve all the city's crime problems. Bruchey said he wants to work with Maynard to ensure that inmates on work release in Washington County are those who have ties to the area.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas C. Mullendore said his department would be monitoring how the policy change affects the local crime rate.

Wardens from Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, Roxbury Correctional Institution and the Maryland Correctional Training Center attended the discussion.

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