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Some projects to keep inmates busy

September 06, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

"Nobody works inmates better than I do ... All (Commissioners President John Barr) has to do is tell me where the dirtiest, ugliest place in this community is and we'll clean it up for free."

- Maryland Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard

Um, Mr. Maynard, sir? Tim Rowland here. You can call me T-dog. I have a follow-up question, if I may.

Did I understand you to say the "dirtiest, ugliest place" in Washington County? Place, as in singular? I'm not complaining, mind you, it's just that this is going to take a pretty serious "narrowing down" effort, if you know what I'm saying.

Of course even a stinker like me would never be so insensitive as to make a joke about ugly, nasty places in Washington County.

But it's a really nice offer, in my opinion. Matching the prison labor pool to needed community projects seems like what the bureaucrats like to call a win-win.

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(But if I did make a joke, it would involve yard sales.)

Come to think of it, I may have one or two suggestions that might catch the inmates' interest. And not to brag, but I have a pretty strong following out at the complex. As you know, they have plenty of time on their hands, so basically inmates have a choice between reading me or cleaning out the toilets with a homemade toothbrush. For many, it is a difficult decision.

The first place that pops into my head as needing a "sprucing up" is the newsroom's coffee station at The Herald-Mail. Writers such as myself are historically nonfunctioning in the a.m., and when you combine compromised motor skills with powdered beans and black liquid, the results are not pretty. The oily net result kind of looks like the asphalt recycling effort over at Clean Rock.

Come to think of it, unless one of your inmates happens to be Red Adair, you may want to give this one a pass.

Another place that pops into the head is the Maugans Avenue widening project. They've been having trouble with underground caverns, and who knows more about tunneling than inmates? Matter of fact, there have been plenty of other problems there, starting with the bids and cost overruns. Like, do any inmates know how to hold a flag and could they do it for less that $1.5 million?

I'd also like to see inmates take charge of whatever project it is that's taking place in the alley in back of the Washington County Circuit Courthouse.

You may not yet be familiar with this project, but that's OK. You've got time. Several professional sports stadiums have been started and completed in the time it's taken Washington County to sink an elevator shaft. If one of your lifers had been in on this job from the get-go, he'd be eligible for parole by now. For speed, this project makes the Broadfording bridge look like about as much effort as collating a middle-school book report on "The Old Man and the Sea."

Ah yes, the Broadfording bridge. What happened, see, is that this structure had a couple of loose stones, and - oh, never mind.

The bottom line is that nothing ever happens quickly here, and I'm thinking that inmate labor could really speed things up. In the time it would take this county just to pick a much-needed alternate route to Hagerstown Community College, the inmates would have one built, widened and conferred with Interstate status.

The problem is that traffic is Very Bad there, and it's only going to get worse when they build a new hospital next door to the school.

Oh, did someone say hospital? There's another good inmate job. The facility was supposed to be open for business right now, but the hospital's been in court more often than your average armed robber. Inmates, I'm thinking, would be less hung-up on "rules" and "variances." You got maybe a dozen people holding things up - if some of your biggest and baddest prisoners start laying the foundation, any of these people going to tell them to stop?

Matter of fact, you may have noticed that Washington County is considering a move to a "Home Rule" form of government. If this flies, we're going to need seven savvy, street-wise leaders to move this county forward.

With your permission, I'd say forget Home Rule, we want to go with Home Boy Rule. You know these cats. They can make a shank out of fudge brownie. That's just the kind of innovation and "can-doism" that this area has lacked for decades.

Change our stripes? To my mind, the best way to do that is to change into stripes.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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