Plan for fewer Md. correctional officers sparks concern

October 10, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's recommendation that 283 vacant correctional officer positions be cut in an effort to save $2.9 million drew mixed reactions Friday from a state employee union representative and a local legislator.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers and David Boschert, executive director of a local labor union, both said they are concerned about the proposed cuts.

O'Malley has proposed more than $200 million in budget cuts in an effort to address the state's estimated $423 million revenue shortfall. His proposal would deal with the proposed shortfall by cutting about $250 million and using about $200 million of budget surplus left over after the last legislative session, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Proposed cuts include millions of dollars from community health programs, education programs, local aid and a six-day furlough for state employees.


The elimination of 283 vacant correctional officer positions will save the state about $2.9 million, O'Malley said.

"Like all departments, we are working with the governor's office to better manage our departments in this tough economic time," said Rick Binetti, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Binetti said he did not know Friday how many of the vacant positions would be cut from the three state prisons south of Hagerstown.

As of Sept. 30, there were 37.5 vacancies at the three state prisons off Sharpsburg Pike, according to an e-mail from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

"We're concerned about not filling vacant positions, but we certainly understand the gravity of the state's economic situation," said David Boschert, executive director of the Maryland Classified Employees Association, a labor union that represents more than 15,000 current and retired state employees.

Boschert said he hopes O'Malley will consider filling the vacant positions as soon as possible. In the meantime, Boschert said correctional officers should be compensated for any additional work they incur because of the cuts.

"We have to all pull in the same direction, but not at the expense of our current employees," Boschert said.

Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, said he understands the need to trim budgets, but questioned the prudence of cutting vacant public safety positions, some of which he said need to be filled.

"I find it quite interesting that we feel that public safety always needs to be the one to take the first hit," said Myers.

Myers said cuts in other departments would not have the same adverse affect as cuts from public safety departments.

"We can make some cuts at (the Maryland State Highway Administration), and maybe the grass gets cut less on the highways," Myers said. "We can probably do without that, to an extent.

"Obviously, we have to find ways to become a little more lean and mean. But there's a reason we needed those (correctional officer) positions. We don't all of a sudden have 5 percent less inmates."

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