Rearrests higher at Patuxent

January 30, 1991|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Evening Sun Staff William Thompson and Jon Morgan contributed to this story.

Inmates released from Patuxent Institution, the unique and embattled Maryland prison designed to reform prisoners through psychological therapy, are more likely to return to jail than those who served time in the state's regular prisons, according to a new study.

The yearlong study, performed by a Boston consultant, showed that 45 percent of inmates who left Patuxent between 1977 and 1988 were rearrested within three years.

During the same period, 27 percent of inmates, who applied but were rejected for admission to Patuxent, were rearrested after leaving other state prisons, the study said. "What is surprising and, indeed, disappointing is there is no clear evidence that the Institution's treatment program wrought positive effects on prisoners, at least as we could measure by our narrow standard -- the incidence of an arrest following release," the study said.

"It is disappointing because a great deal of intelligence and ingenuity went into the invention and design of a program for intellectually deficient and emotionally impaired criminals who, by virtue of their handicaps, pose some threat to the larger society," the report concluded.

At the same time, the study said, the higher recidivism rate at Patuxent is due in part to the fact that the prison has historically accepted prisoners more likely to be recidivists. Even factoring that into the equation, the study still deemed the treatment program ineffective.

Prepared by ABT Associates Inc., the study is now being sent to legislators in Annapolis. State prison officials are scheduled to discuss the study and proposals for Patuxent's future at legislative hearings next week.

Already, some lawmakers are suggesting that the report could further damage Patuxent's embattled rehabilitation program.

"A stunning amount of money was spent and to find out that it didn't make any difference is a body blow to supporters of rehabilitation," said Del. Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery, a member of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the prison system. "The report is going to take the velvet glove off the iron fist and we are going to see a period of very stringent treatment of inmates."

Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that the study could be a catalyst for moving the now-independent Patuxent into the regular Division of Correction system.

Patuxent, considered to have one of the nation's most innovative treatment programs, came under fire in 1988 after the disclosure that the prison had approved unsupervised furloughs for Robert Daly Angell, who was serving three consecutive life terms for murdering two Montgomery County police officers and a teen-ager. In a second incident a few weeks later, a Patuxent inmate serving a 25-year sentence for a rape conviction was arrested for raping a woman while on work release from the Jessup prison.

During the 1989 session, the legislature, supported by Schaefer, tightened admissions and parole standards. The prison's early-release program, which provided inmates with an incentive change their attitudes, was scrapped and the number of inmates leaving on work-release and furlough programs was drastically reduced.

The ABT study, which was ordered by the legislature in 1989, gives the first in-depth look at Patuxent's performance. Before the controversies, Patuxent officials claimed that the recidivism rate there was better than at other prisons. Maryland Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services Bishop L. Robinson said that Patuxent's recidivism rate was roughly the same as the prison system's.

Joseph Henneberry, whom Robinson brought in to run Patuxent after its overhaul, has said in the past that Patuxent would be more effective concentrating on young offenders without long criminal histories -- inmates who might be turned around through therapy. Henneberry declined to comment last night.

"The real question is do we continue spending the $8,000 or $9,000 extra per inmate it costs at Patuxent with no real results," said Del. Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, an influential legislator on prison issues. "Right now, Patuxent is sort of in the twilight zone. No one really knows what type of institution it is or isn't. We should either acknowledge failure and put it in the Division of Correction or come up with a mission that is distinct from the rest of the division."

The ABT study compared sample groups of inmates in three categories -- those who went through Patuxent's treatment program; those who entered the program but went back to the regular prison system without finishing; and those who applied for admission to Patuxent but were rejected.

Those who finished the program had the highest recidivism rate of the three groups -- 45 percent, compared with 37 percent for those who went through part of the program, and 27 percent for those who were rejected altogether.

"Our findings provide no evidence of any treatment effect at Patuxent, either for those fully or partially treated," the study said.

The study concluded that inmates became less likely to be rearrested the older they were. Also, inmates with more extensive prior criminal records were more likely to be rearrested.

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