Maryland Public Safety Secretary Bishop L. Robinson appointed one of his top assistants and confidants yesterday to take interim charge of the problem-fraught Division of Correction.
Mr. Robinson named Richard A. Lanham Sr., 53, assistant secretary of public safety and correctional services, as acting correction commissioner in the wake of the retirement last week of Elmanus Herndon, the deputy commissioner who had been acting head of the agency for the for the last 13 months.
Mr. Lanham, who headed the Baltimore City Police Department's criminal investigation division as a colonel when Mr. Robinson was police commissioner, has been the state's $71,608-a-year assistant secretary of public safety since January 1989. For six months before that, he was director of the Maryland Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, after working for 29 years in the city police department.
The Division of Correction, which has had seven commissioners since 1967, when the post was created, has been without a permanent chief since September 1989, when Fred E. Jordan Jr. quit abruptly after nine months on the job. The national search for a replacement continues.
Last week, Mr. Herndon, also 53, announced his retirement from his $70,342-a-year post, citing "frustration" with Maryland's overcrowded prisons and the limited resources available for inmate programs.
Although Mr. Herndon denied last week that he had been asked to retire, correction and other state officials have since said Mr. Robinson asked for Mr. Herndon's resignation.
Those officials said Mr. Robinson was not happy with Mr. Herndon's management of the division. But, they said, what ultimately forced Mr. Robinson's hand were the disclosures of the mistaken early releases of inmates John F. Thanos and Betty V. Rorie, who later were charged in separate incidents with killing a total of four people.