Inmates baby oysters
8/18/10
Southern Maryland News

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The program started quietly last year with the state division of correction bringing pre-release inmates down to the Piney Point Aquaculture Center to help restore the Chesapeake Bay oyster population.

However, last week, Gary D. Maynard, Maryland secretary of public safety and correctional service, trekked to the center to see the cooperation between his department and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

"It's the first time I've ever seen it," Maynard said Thursday as he watched inmates load heavy mesh bags full of baby oyster spat onto boats waiting at the center's dock.

Maynard said the two departments also cooperate on tree planting operations and the restoration of Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay, but noted that the oyster project "is one of the significant things" they do together.

"I think it's a great project," Maynard said. "Plus it's doing a good thing for the bay."

According to the division of correction, offenders logged more than 700 hours of work at Piney Point since February. During that time they crafted 42,000 shell bags, which they loaded with 24,000 bushels of oyster shells containing an estimated 25 million spat.

"The men obviously learn some skills," Maynard said, noting that they learn both specific work skills and the more important interpersonal skills needed to keep a job.