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Freshman lawmakers tour MCTC

December 13, 2010|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Sen.-elect Christopher B. Shank walks Monday with fellow Maryland General Assembly members on a tour of the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — A group of newly elected state lawmakers was told during a tour of Maryland Correctional Training Center on Monday that some of the inmates are allowed to furnish their cells with televisions and Sony PlayStations.

Del.-elect Neil Parrott, R-Washington, said afterward that he was relieved the taxpayers weren’t footing the bill.

“The inmates, if they have them, are paying for them on their own,” Parrott said.

Parrott and Sen.-elect Christopher B. Shank, who were elected to their seats in the Maryland General Assembly in November to represent Washington County, were among 19 freshmen lawmakers to take the tour.

MCTC Assistant Warden Wayne Webb told the delegates and senators that the inmates are permitted to have the televisions and gaming systems to keep them occupied and “out of the faces” of correctional officers.

“We really do try to keep the inmates busy,” said Webb, adding officials also help inmates learn job skills and earn General Equivalency Diplomas in an effort to prevent them from returning to prison.

Webb took the lawmakers into the heart of the prison, showing them shower rooms and the insides of occupied cells. The tour included the showing of an $18 million housing unit that opened in June to hold as many as 480 inmates. The state-of-the-art facility is equipped with special cells to accommodate the physically disabled.

Shank, who held Parrott’s seat in the House of Delegates before he successfully ran for the state Senate, said he has visited MCTC on numerous occasions.

Shank praised the correctional officers who monitor the housing units and walk the yard among the inmates.

“They put their lives on the line every day,” he said.

Shank said part of the reason that he wanted to take the tour was to determine whether 16 air-conditioning units that were purchased for the prison had been installed. He said he heard a funding problem prevented their installation, and they were sitting unused near buildings.

“We’re still looking for it,” he said.

A Divison of Correction spokesperson did not know the status of the air-conditioning units.

Shank said he doubted that the General Assembly would cut funding for the prison system during the upcoming legislative session.

“We want to make sure what we have we spend wisely,” Shank said. “You can’t skimp on public safety.”

J. Michael Stouffer, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, told the lawmakers before the tour started that prison officials have made great strides keeping contraband out of the prisons by using better technology at prison entrances.

He said contraband often results in gang violence.

“You have gang members who want to control that stuff,” he said.

Stouffer gave the new legislators his cell phone number and asked them to call him with any questions.

Maryland Correctional Training Center facts


• Number of correctional officers: 602

• Number of inmates: 2,900

• Average inmate age: 35

• Average inmate sentence: 12.3 years

• Types of most serious offenses:

• Drugs: 521

• Robbery: 457

• Assault: 418

• Murder: 334

• Burglary: 204

• Larceny: 119

• Sex offenses: 228

• Weapons: 130

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