New state boss lays down the law at Baltimore jail Flanagan wants rats kept out, inmates in

September 03, 1991|By Brian Sullam

An article yesterday incorrectly identified the county represented by Delegate Timothy F. Maloney. Mr. Maloney is a Democrat from Prince George's County.

+ The Sun regrets the errors.

LaMont W. Flanagan may be the boss of the Baltimore City Detention Center, but there was no way he was going to get into that jail Thursday afternoon without signing the visitors log and getting a pass.

Mr. Flanagan had left his identification card at his office, and under the new rules -- which he laid down nearly two months ago -- all employees must wear their identification cards inside jail walls.


"It's my own fault. I left it in my briefcase," Mr. Flanagan said as the jail guard patted down the acting commissioner of the state Division of Detention and Pretrial Services.

Since the state took control of the Baltimore City Jail July 1, installed new management and renamed it the Baltimore City Detention Center, Mr. Flanagan has been laboring to gain control over the jail and instill order.

Two weeks ago, he ordered a "shakedown" of the entire jail. It was the first comprehensive shakedown in a year.

A handful of knives and hypodermic needles were found, but Mr. Flanagan said he will attack the problem of contraband in the jail by preventing any from coming in rather than dealing with it once it is inside.

He has already made some simple changes in the way inmates and goods enter and leave the jail.

Separate gates have been established for inmates leaving and entering. Under the old arrangement, inmates coming in were mixing with those leaving. In addition, deliveries of food, medicine and other supplies were made to the same gate. The chaos that created made it easy for drugs, weapons and liquor to slip in undetected past the guards.

"We cut down on the number of people passing through the gates. Small numbers give you more control," Mr. Flanagan said. "By moving the commercial delivery gate 50 feet, we have significantly improved security inside the jail."

To keep track of inmates participating in jail work programs, Mr. Flanagan "scrounged around" in the corrections system for all the orange overalls he could find. Any inmate working anywhere on the jail grounds is now immediately identifiable.

He also hired an outside exterminator to combat the rats and roaches that have overrun the jail. "These are the only inhabitants that don't seem to want to leave the jail," Mr. Flanagan said.

Not all the changes can be achieved so quickly. Mr. Flanagan said one of his major goals is improving the morale of jail employees and the public's opinion of them.

Over the years, jail employees had been conditioned to accept ** the deplorable conditions in which they worked, which in turn lowered their morale, Mr. Flanagan said. He said that he was going to "re-educate" all the employees.

"This institution has had a history of violence, escape, erroneous releases and general inmate chaos. My charge from Secretary Robinson is to turn things around," he said, referring to Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services.

Mr. Flanagan believes that the only efficient way to run the jail is to lay down rules and follow them to the letter. His system allows no exceptions -- even for the boss.

More than two dozen jail employees were fired after they failed drug tests, and about 20 others have lost their jobs. Mr. Flanagan would not say why they were fired.

The firing of longtime jail employees doesn't sit well with Ricardo Silva, field director of the Maryland Corrections Union.

"We were told that if they did a good job they would be retained by the state, but we have seen people terminated without being given a reason," he said. "We had a case of a 30-year employee who was terminated. If the state continues with this arbitrary and capricious behavior, it will lower morale."

Mr. Flanagan defended his right to fire people to manage the jail efficiently, but he said most of the employees should not fear for their jobs.

"We inherited a lot of good people who were operating in an environment of insufficient resources and leadership. Give them the proper leadership and they will motivate themselves. Give them the proper recognition and pride and they will be exemplary employees," he said.

Mr. Flanagan came to Maryland after spending 18 months overseeing inmate rehabilitation programs for prisoners in Virginia. Earlier, he worked at Riker's Island supervising the creation and management of court-mandated law libraries in the New York City corrections system.

Not all of his career has been spent in corrections. Mr. Flanagan, who obtained a law degree in 1975 from Albany Law School, has worked with an international trading company in Washington, D.C.; been deputy director of the New York Mortgage Agency; and been counsel to the New York Senate committees on banking and on corrections.

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