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Maryland prison reorganization designed to better help inmates transition into society

November 30, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • A sign designating the correctional institutions is shown Wednesday outside Maryland Correctional Institute - Hagerstown.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Maryland's prison chief said this week that a reorganization of the state prison system will reduce recidivism and improve the way inmates re-enter society upon their release.

Gary D. Maynard, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Wednesday that part of the reorganization involves incarcerating prisoners in the same region where they committed their crimes.

"Offenders that come into the system stay in that region, and when they re-enter they stay in that region," Maynard said in a telephone interview. "At least 80, 85, 90 percent will be arrested in the region, sentenced in the region, incarcerated in the region and released in the region."

He said the only exceptions would be for death-row inmates and inmates who committed egregious crimes. Those prisoners will be incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison near Cumberland that houses the state's most serious offenders.

The reorganization emerged after officials from all state prison agencies met during four brainstorming retreats this year to come up with ideas that would improve public safety efforts across the department.

The group was tasked with addressing the current operational structure, which makes fluid movement of offenders from sentencing to rehabilitation difficult due to disparate missions, poor communications, rigid operations and antiquated data systems, according to the department's website at www.dpscs.maryland.gov/publicinfo/reorg/index.shtml.

The operational reorganization plan has three main objectives: regional integration, finding efficiencies and improving inmates' re-entry into society, the website said.

The old system of having a Division of Pretrial, a Division of Corrections and a Division of Parole/Probation was abandoned in favor of a system consisting of Central, South and North regions, Maynard said.

The North Region is comprised of Washington, Allegany, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard and Montgomery counties.

Washington County is home to three state prisons: The Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown; Roxbury Correctional Institution; and the Maryland Correctional Training Center.

Baltimore City and Baltimore County make up the Central Region.

The South Region includes the counties of Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Kent, Prince George's, Queen Anne's, Somerset, St. Mary's, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester.

The old system commonly incarcerated inmates far from their homes and transferred them from prison to prison, Maynard said. By keeping inmates in the same region, they will be closer to their families and benefit from having the same case workers, educational opportunities and job training throughout their prison stay.



Targeting recidivism

Officials believe those elements will better help prisoners re-enter society when they're released and decrease the recidivism rate, Maynard said.

"They'll be more stable," he said. "They'll stay in the same region. They won't be moved around the state. They'll be closer to family."

Regional integration is expected to be a boon because it is intended to open lines of communications and reduce overlapping services, according to the department's website.

"Rehabilitation at a regional level also allows DPSCS to better utilize the $15 million investment made in an Offender Case Management System, which parallels the reorganization by improving the flow of information about offenders under supervision," the website said.

The result is "sequential offender case-planning that not only improves the parole process but also better matches offenders to programs and services at all stages of their supervision in their geographical region — ultimately lowering recidivism and cost to tax payers," the website said.



Sheriffs' costs to drop

The new system will not increase costs because it simply shifts directors under the old divisional system to lead departments in the new regional system, Maynard said.

On Monday, Maynard assigned J. Michael Stouffer, who had been commissioner of the Division of Correction, to the newly created job of deputy secretary of operations.

In that job, Stouffer will oversee the directors of the Central, South and North regions.

Maynard also appointed Jon P. Galley, former assistant commissioner of the Division of Correction, to director of the North Region.

In addition, he appointed Wendell M. France, former commissioner of the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, as director of the Central Region; and Patricia A. Vale, former director of the Division of Parole and Probation, as head of the South Region.

Maynard said the regional directors will visit the prisons in their respective regions to assess how the program is running. The directors will prepare reports for Stouffer, who in turn will provide the information to Maynard, he said.

Some of the visits the regional directors will make will be to wardens, case workers and various programs directors, Maynard said.

Regional directors also will work with local sheriffs to coordinate inmate re-entries.

Maynard said he was uncertain whether the new program would save the state money, but said he was certain it would trim the costs to local sheriffs' offices because they no longer will have to drive prisoners across the state to release them in their home counties.

"The (Washington County) sheriff won't be driving prisoners to Baltimore," Maynard said. "The sheriff's will save a lot of money and time in transporting."

Maynard said no one will lose his or her job as a result of the reorganization. However, he said some jobs could be lost to attrition.

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