Maynard suggests prisoners dismantle state prison in Jessup
02/05/2011
Herald-Mail - Online

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If Maryland's public safety secretary has his way, inmates would dismantle a prison the state closed four years ago.

Gary D. Maynard, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, floated the possibility last month.

During a meeting in Annapolis with Western Maryland state delegates and senators, Maynard laid out his idea of using inmates to deconstruct the former House of Correction in Jessup.

According to Maynard, the Department of General Services which oversees state-owned property estimated the cost of demolishing the prison building and taking materials to a landfill at $10 million.

But if the state put out a contract using inmates to take the building apart, the cost might be about $2 million, Maynard said.

Since taking over as secretary in 2007, Maynard frequently has offered inmates as work crews for municipalities and expressed frustration that few government bodies accept.

During last month's Western Maryland delegation meeting, Maynard mentioned his idea as a way to take down the vacant prison, saying it would save money and teach practical skills to inmates.

The state closed the House of Correction in March 2007, about two months into Gov. Martin O'Malley's first term.

O'Malley and Maynard said at the time that the prison was outdated and dangerous.

The prison opened in 1878 and was one of America's oldest operating prisons, according to a 2007 Division of Correction annual report.

The report says the prison was designed for a capacity of 699, but at the time it closed, it had an average daily population of about 1,200 inmates.

The former prison is approximately 355,600 square feet, according to Division of Correction spokeswoman Erin Julius.

During the delegation meeting, Del. Susan W. Krebs, R-Carroll, told Maynard that she has talked before about using inmates to help tear down the former Henryton State Hospital in her district.

"That's a classic example of what we'd like to do," Maynard replied.

He described deconstructing as "backward building" another way of learning the construction trade.

"If you take a door frame down, then you surely know how to put a door frame up," Maynard said.

Besides saving labor costs, he said, the state also would make money by salvaging fixtures and parts of the building.

The slate roof is valuable, Maynard said. Steel rebar from the walls could be resold.

"There's probably 15, 20 million dollars worth of copper in that building," he said.