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Proper intentions, poor implementation

August 27, 2008|By GARY D. MAYNARD

To the editor:

The need for IONSCANS and resulting strip searches at MCTC two weeks ago has left some of our employees upset and the public unclear about the facts.

The facts are that a recent series of drug seizures and inmate overdoses, including one fatality, have compromised the safety of MCTC staff and inmates alike.

Because we have a duty to protect both staff and inmates, the Division of Correction implemented a stepped-up, nonrandom, contraband interdiction effort based on a successful program used in our Baltimore prisons earlier this year - including the use of IONSCAN machines. Unfortunately, this one did not go as well.

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The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services takes very seriously our efforts to stop contraband from entering our prisons and we will always be decisive in our actions related to security.

But, while properly intentioned, this particular operation fell short. The hastily organized implementation of these procedures caused stress and embarrassment to some very fine employees. My promise to them, along with Commissioner Stouffer's, is that it won't happen again.

An investigation into whether or not these machines were properly used and calibrated, as well as if the searches, were conducted according to Division of Correction procedures continues. Disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate.

As a 30-year corrections professional who began his career as an officer in Hagerstown, Commissioner Stouffer is well aware of the need to mesh security with maintaining dignity for staff. But he also understands that from the first day on the job, every corrections professional is aware that difficult, and sometimes uncomfortable, security procedures are a necessary reality in our work environment.

Though inconvenient, good security is not intended to demean or demoralize. To that end, Commissioner Stouffer has met with and personally apologized to those MCTC staff involved.

And, because we can always do better, the Division of Correction is constantly reviewing and changing the process as needed in an effort to standardize its entrance security procedures. We owe it to our staff and to the public.

I met with some members of the House of Delegates and Sen. Donald F. Munson, all of whom represent Washington County, and they encouraged the department to proceed with its investigation into the events at MCTC that day.

Our elected officials all agree that the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services has an obligation to protect both its employees and inmates from the introduction of contraband in all facilities.

Like our operation in Baltimore, I will ensure future intensive security initiatives will be deliberate, well planned, well executed and will show the best of the Division of Correction.

Gary D. Maynard is Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

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