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Lloyd Waters: Leap tall buildings? Become a CO

June 02, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

Wanted: “Someone able to leap tall buildings in a single bound; more powerful than a locomotive; faster than a speeding bullet and prepared to fight the unending battle for truth, justice and the American way.”

If you meet any of those characteristics, the Maryland Department of Public Safety just might be looking for you.

Seriously, correctional officers (COs) are just normal people working a difficult job to make ends meet.

They cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound, etc., etc.

Some are better than others. Politicians and bureaucrats are the same. Prison administrators, too.

The Baltimore City Detention Center fiasco is the result of many failures. People outside the prison share in those failures.

Consider a few things before you cast the first stone.

The problem with cellphones being smuggled into prisons was almost a given. Before the advent of cellphones, the Division of Correction installed pay phones in all the major facilities. These phones have been used for years. Why? Because the state receives a healthy bonus from the profits created by the use of these phones by the inmates.

Even before the use of illegal cellphones by gang members, smuggled cellphones represented a way to save money for many inmates. They were a lot cheaper than the legal pay phones.

Solving the cellphone issue will not eliminate the gang communication of illegal activities from the inside to the outside because pay phones, letters and visits are still permitted within every state prison.

The Baltimore City Detention Center at one time belonged to Baltimore City. Gov. Schaefer and several local politicians supported the 1991 transfer of this facility to the state. A good move for Baltimore City, but not very good for the Maryland taxpayer.

I have shared this criticism in past columns. You can see validation for this criticism in the current problems. If you saw the tax dollars involved, you would be numb.

The transfer of this facility to the state was a mistake.

The Correctional Officers Bill of Rights has also been defended by its sponsor, the AFSCME union, and embraced by the bad guys. Why? Because it makes the administering of discipline more lengthy and difficult.

Talk to any knowing correctional professional, or several of those FBI investigators who are examining the problems at the detention center and you will soon learn that the Correctional Officers Bill of Rights is a significant problem.

That, too, was an enormous mistake but no one wants to accept responsibility.

Perhaps those supporters of these two legislative actions should admit their errors in judgment and support those remedies to fix the problem. 

It might help return some integrity to Maryland.

I’ve read that 83 percent of correctional officer candidates in Baltimore City cannot pass the required background investigation.  How can you ever hope to acquire an adequate number of good staff members to work in those city facilities with a failure rate like that?

Do you lower your investigative standards or continue to hire in the same fashion that you have been and expect different results?

Training has been identified as another possible failure; supervision and leadership can’t be far behind.

At some facilities, the existing training curriculum and physical agility requirements have resulted in staff injuries. When staff members suffer injuries in a training program, it represents a poorly designed and supervised program.

There are other significant issues related to training.

Tavon White, the alleged gang leader, was a major player in those problems at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

There were many other contributors to those problems as well, and not all of them are locked up.

Good leadership, good training and good instructors usually reap good results. Absent any one of those three ingredients, forget it.

If you can leap tall buildings in a single bound, please see your local public safety recruiter.        

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail. He is a former prison warden.

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