Educating and rehabilitating prisoners will save the state money and spare society some of the crimes that result when ex-offenders are not prepared for release, Maryland’s corrections chief said yesterday. The Baltimore Sun reports that Mary Ann Saar, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, outlined plans to give inmates skills they need to lead productive, law-abiding lives.
Other critics called for changing state laws on child support and driver’s licenses that result in many inmates leaving prison saddled with debt and unable to obtain licenses.
The state will expand education, job training and substance abuse treatment in prisons, and introduce a behavior-modification program, Saar told more than 300 people at a Goodwill Industries event.
Maryland hopes to fill more than 200 correctional officer vacancies with teachers, counselors, and social workers. Inmates will be offered a 12-week behavior modification course to teach them how to handle personal conflicts and other problems that could lead to crime.
About half of inmates freed in Maryland are locked up again within three years of their release. The state freed about 15,000 prisoners last year and has about 28,000 behind bars. It costs Maryland taxpayers $23,000 a year to incarcerate one person.
In an earlier story, the Sun reports that some parolees and probationers would receive up to $25 each month for staying on the straight and narrow under a pilot program being hammered out by the state and the Abell Foundation.
Supporters say the plan would provide ex-offenders with an extra incentive to go along with the threat of incarceration. The cash incentives do not sit well with agents who monitor offenders. “I think it’s ludicrous that they’re trying to bribe offenders to do the right thing,” Rai Douglas, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3661, which represents parole and probation agents.
David B. Muhlhausen of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, also found fault with the idea. “If they don’t follow the terms of their probation, what you do is enforce the terms,” he said. “What’s going to happen next if the $25 doesn’t work? What are they going to do, raise it to $50, $100? Where does this lead? … It sounds like blackmail to me.”
Ernest Eley of the state Division of Parole and Probation said, “I don’t see it as a way of paying people. I see the possibility of the state deriving a tremendous cost benefit from this particular pilot program.”