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State correctional institutions in Washington County score well in grand jury report

Jurors found staffing inadequate in areas at some of the facilities

March 22, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • The Maryland Correctional and Training Center is shown in this file photo. The Washington County grand jury impaneled from September to March recently issued its report on Roxbury Correctional Institution, Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown and the Maryland Correctional and Training Center, as well as the detention center.
Herald-Mail file photo

Each year, a grand jury tours the three state correctional institutions in Washington County and the county Detention Center, issuing a report on what its members observed, both good and bad.

The county grand jury impaneled from September to March recently issued its report on Roxbury Correctional Institution, Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown and the Maryland Correctional and Training Center, as well as the detention center.

The grand jury found Roxbury to be “clean and orderly” on its Dec. 6 tour, although its members felt staffing was “inadequate in some areas.”

The grand jurors also said the Lost Dog Foundation program at the prison was beneficial to both the animals and inmates.

Maryland Correctional Institution was visited on Dec. 22, where jurors found staffing “inadequate to monitor numerous hallways and stairways.”

The report noted a stairway out of service due to structural damage, which could pose a hazard in an emergency.

“It is inconvenient, but does not threaten the security or safety of the institution,” Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, wrote in an e-mail.

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Living areas are served by several stairwells, and the department has requested funds to repair the damaged one, he said.

The grand jury also recommended upgrading the prison’s fences and adding more video monitors.

Improvements to the fence are on the capital construction improvements list, along with updated video monitors, Vernarelli wrote.

The prison remains secure, having scored 100 percent for security standards in its 2011 audit by the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards, Vernarelli wrote.

The grand jurors had no negative comments about the Maryland Correctional Training Center from their Dec. 15 tour.

The report noted MCTC’s new medical building, modern command centers, newer housing units and window replacements in some housing units.

Meanwhile, the Washington County Detention Center was found to be clean and orderly during a Feb. 3 inspection, “with the exception of the medical area which was dirty and in need of upgrading,” the report said.

“The regular medical director was on sick leave, and we were experiencing a high level of traffic that morning,” Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said. “It was corrected later that day,” and the conditions the jurors saw were not typical, he said.

The report said there was only one officer in the central command center, and he appeared to be “multitasking various duties.”

Two officers staff the center but, at the time the jurors passed through, one was in the restroom, Mullendore said.

“I found that one kind of funny,” Mullendore said.

The report praised the use of computer monitors for visits, which eliminates physical contact between visitors and inmates.

The tours are written into Maryland law, which requires that “At least once each year, the circuit court of each county shall charge its grand jury to ... inquire into the operation and management of each State correctional facility located in the county.”

Grand juries are required to do the same of local correctional facilities, under the law.

“I think the grand jury recommendations tend to be worthwhile. It’s the conscience of the community,” said Administrative Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr.

While the recommendations are often good ones, “many of them cost money and there’s not always enough money to do what they want done,” Long said.

Like other agencies, the department has seen budget cuts, Vernarelli wrote.

“It’s a testament to our hard-working employees that we routinely pass security audits, work through these challenges and continually improve our safety record year after year since 2007,” Vernarelli wrote.

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