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Inmate-release policy changed

Those without homeplans in Western Maryland will be released from Baltimore

Those without homeplans in Western Maryland will be released from Baltimore

August 29, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

At a meeting with the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce this morning, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard announced a new inmate-release policy.

All inmates from the three prisons south of Hagerstown and two prisons in Cumberland, Md., who do not have a homeplan for Western Maryland will be released from the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore.

The new policy took effect Monday, according to information provided by DPSCS.

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

Prior to the policy change, inmates from all five prisons in Western Maryland were dropped off at the Greyhound bus station in Hagerstown. These inmates were expected to report to parole and probation in other jurisdictions, depending on where they were from, but some never reported, and instead stayed in Hagerstown and contributed to local crime, city officials have charged.

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

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

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

DPSCS officials performed an "exhaustive study" of the releases in Hagerstown and Cumberland from January to June of this year, according to Mark Vernarelli, department spokesman.

Of the 622 inmates who were released and supervised by the Department of Parole and Probation, eight who were not sentenced in Washington County remained in the area after the release from prison, Vernarelli said. Six of those eight had jobs that began before their release and the two others have family in the area, he said.

Although Gansler and his office don't set corrections' policies, officials hoped that his political influence could help their cause.

The wardens from all three prisons south of Hagerstown, Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, Roxbury Correctional Institution and the Maryland Correctional Training Center were at this morning's discussion. Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith and Washington County Commissioners President John Barr were also in attendance.

Maynard took prepared questions this morning and discussed other Division of Correction issues including gang problems, overcrowding and staffing levels.

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