A Parliamentary Visit to See Progressive Maryland Prison Programs
Members of Parliament Interested in Penal Reform and Veterans’ Issues
Towson, MD (September, 9, 2010)---A delegation from the United Kingdom---including a member of Parliament--- visited the Maryland Division of Correction (DOC) today to learn about innovative programs in place to help incarcerated military veterans. The delegation met top leaders from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) and DOC; visited with an inmate veterans’ group; and then toured a worksite of the only program of its kind in the nation where inmates with prior military service restore State veterans cemeteries.
The visit was coordinated by the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA), a key partner to DPSCS in supervising veterans. Under Secretary Gary Maynard, DPSCS has begun important efforts to help veterans while they’re behind bars, as well as with re-entry services and partnerships.
Five Maryland DOC prisons have strong and active inmate veterans groups. All have raised a considerable amount of money for various veteran-assisting non-profits. Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) is the only prison to hold a solemn outdoor memorial service on National POW-MIA Day (September 17). Another Hagerstown prison, the Maryland Correctional Institution - Hagerstown (MCIH), has the only inmate participants in America for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, which allows inmates to record their military service stories.
“We are happy to host this distinguished delegation,” stated Secretary Maynard. “And thrilled to share information that will help both the United Kingdom and the Maryland correctional system better deal with the special needs of incarcerated veterans.” The delegation and DPSCS officials met at Jessup Correctional Institution, a maximum-security facility in Jessup, which also has an active veterans group.
Secretary Maynard began the veterans’ cemetery project three years ago, and it remains the only one of its kind in the nation. Inmates who were not dishonorably discharged are able to work labor details in the veterans’ cemeteries supervised by the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, and some have actually been hired there permanently upon their release. The UK delegation toured one such site (Crownsville) today, where state Veterans Affairs officials told how the inmates’ strong work ethic has made a huge difference in the appearance of the cemeteries.
The UK delegation included Elfyn Llwyd, an 18-year member of Parliament from Wales, and Sir John Nutting, a leading barrister. They work with the Howard League for Penal Reform, a group established in 1866 that’s the oldest penal reform charity in the UK. The League’s latest research project is to learn about incarcerated veterans. As such, the delegation heard from Secretary Maynard, a nearly-40 year correctional veteran who is also a retired brigadier general; and Dr. James Holwager, the chief of psychology for DPSCS, who discussed the special medical needs of incarcerated veterans.
DPSCS is also taking measures to more accurately know how many veterans are currently incarcerated, so that re-entry, medical, and other services can be offered at an earlier stage of incarceration.