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Task force on Md. prison violence to meet today

June 18, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A task force charged with studying prison violence is to meet for the first time Wednesday afternoon in Towson, Md. The task force was created by a state law passed during the 2007 legislative session.

Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services officials, union representatives, corrections employees and elected officials are among those who have been appointed to the task force.

Del. Christopher B. Shank. R-Washington is its co-chair.

The task force is supposed to study information on several subjects, including the scope and causes of violence in the state prison system, and the impact of illegal drugs, contraband and gang activity on violence.

The task force will develop a strategic plan, a DPSCS spokesman said.

"It's a long time coming," Shank said.

Issues of contraband and gang violence are driving prison violence today, Shank said, calling gang violence a "ticking time bomb."

The task force also needs to look at how contraband gets into Maryland's prisons, Shank said. He said he believes inmate contact visits are a reason for a lot of the contraband, Shank said.

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Larry Kump, Maryland Classified Employees Association chapter president for noncustody employees in corrections was appointed to the task force but will not serve on it because he recently retired from the Division of Correction, where he worked as a case manager.

Kump plans to attend the first meeting, and to share with the task force a number of issues he has identified.

Prison violence affects everyone, from inmates, correctional officers and staff, to the general public, he said.

The gang problem, in particular, is a national phenomenon that has been worsening, he said. In the list of issues he will present to the task force, Kump also takes issue with the ban on tobacco products in the prisons. Focusing on tobacco as contraband detracts from more dangerous contraband issues, he wrote.

The task force must present a final report of its findings and any recommendations to the governor by Dec. 31, according to the legislation.

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