Correctional Services secretary proud of prisoner work programs
06/02/2010
Herald-Mail

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The head of Maryland’s prison system is encouraging government agencies across the state to cut costs by taking advantage of inmate labor.

Gary D. Maynard, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, spoke about the proposal Wednesday during an Eggs & Issues breakfast that was co-sponsored by First United Bank and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. About 25 people attended the event at the Academy Theatre Banquet & Conference Center off East Washington Street in Hagerstown.

Maynard said one of the things that he does well is put prisoners to work.

“I get more work out of inmates than anyone you know,” Maynard said.

The Public Safety Works Restorative Justice initiative gives jobs to nonviolent inmates who are close to being released. Participants in the program are taken to work sites in the morning and returned to their respective prisons in the afternoon.

The Town of Williamsport has used the program.

Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said in April that inmates have contributed about 3,300 work hours to the town and saved roughly $30,000 in labor costs since May 2008.

Maynard said that in addition to saving governments money, the services of a 10-man crew cost $299 per day, the program gives inmates a chance to learn valuable skills that can be used to find a job after their release.

Inmate labor was instrumental in helping to restore Antietam National Battlefield, Maynard said. In addition to planting trees in the North Woods, prisoners helped restore the foundation of the barn at Poffenberger Farm.

Maynard also touted the three prisons south of Hagerstown as a major part of the local economy.

He said Maryland Correctional Training Center, Roxbury Correctional Institution and Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown provide about 1,700 full-time jobs with combined salaries and wages of roughly $110 million a year.

About 65 percent of those employees are correctional officers, Maynard said. The remaining 35 percent work in support roles, such as food services.