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Inmates take steps to aid victims

December 29, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A man who was shot in the back of the neck 34 years ago and endured years of rehabilitation and surgery as recently as September, received a get-well card Monday from a group of inmates who invited him to the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown to share his story.

Robin Woolford, who works for the state as the executive director of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, started his presentation Monday afternoon by showing the group of about 40 inmates that he could stand, without a walker or cane and with his weight resting on both sides of his body, for the first time since 1975. In January 1975, Woolford was in college and working at an Annapolis dry-cleaning business when a man entered the store, pulled out a gun and took $87, he said. The robber told Woolford to crouch behind the counter and then shot him in the neck.


Woolford's assailant spent about 30 years in the Maryland Division of Correction before being released, a Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman said.

For the past eight years, Woolford has overseen the state's compensation board, founded in 1968, which in the past fiscal year gave out about $6 million to crime victims to help cover medical expenses, lost wages and funeral expenses. Each year, the board receives about 1,700 new claims, Woolford said.

In April, MCTC inmates held a two-day walk-a-thon that raised about $1,450 for the compensation board, said Tarif Abdullah, who has been incarcerated since 1978. Prison employees donated another $800, Abdullah said.

Woolford spoke Monday to about 40 inmates, all of whom were members of the prison's group for those serving life in prison.

Some inmates were hesitant to participate in a walk-a-thon to benefit victims because victims groups lobby against inmates, Abdullah said. But 700 inmates -- nearly one-fourth of the prison's population -- turned out for the walk-a-thon, he said.

Abdullah called the event "a monumental experience in growth and development" for his fellow inmates.

Woolford showed a short video of Abdullah presenting him a check from the walk-a-thon proceeds during the annual Governor's Victim Assistance Awards luncheon held in the spring. Some told him not to show the video -- "impressions die hard," Woolford said -- but he showed it anyway. The inmates received a standing ovation from the 300 people watching the video, Woolford said.

Jerry Beatty, who has been incarcerated since 1982, designed and drew the get-well card the inmates gave to Woolford.

"Sometimes, little things go a long way," he said.

Woolford's story about showing the video and receiving applause was "awe-inspiring," Beatty said.

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