ANNAPOLIS -- Legislative leaders, confessing to a budgetary "oversight," have asked Gov. William Donald Schaefer to find as much as $1 million to restore the inmate education programs at the Patuxent Institution and save about 22 state jobs.
But aides to Mr. Schaefer say that while the governor is sympathetic to the problem, they are not sure they can find enough money to restore more than a handful of the threatened jobs, if that.
Legislative leaders, including the presiding officers, budget committee chairmen and majority and minority leaders of both the House and Senate, wrote Mr. Schaefer on Oct. 18 to explain their mistake and appeal for help.
"The problem is, there was no check with that letter. It still leaves us with the problem to come up with the money to restore it somehow," said Page Boinest, a spokeswoman for Mr. Schaefer. "But we do want to work with the legislature."
The problem arose when legislators asked Mr. Schaefer to restore educational programs in all state prisons, which the governor had proposed to eliminate as part of a $450 million deficit-reduction plan.
But when legislation was prepared to accomplish that, the educational programs at Patuxent, which are budgeted separately from those at other prisons, were inadvertently omitted.
"It was an oversight," said William S. Ratchford II, director of the General Assembly's Department of Fiscal Services.
"It was the legislature's intention to restore all correctional education programs," lawmakers said in their letter to Mr. Schaefer. "We believe it is important that the Patuxent education program be funded in a manner consistent with the other correctional facilities and ask that you also support restoration of this program."
Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, a prison system spokesman, said Public Safety Secretary Bishop L. Robinson is interested in restoring at least some of the Patuxent jobs but added: "There is no money."
Unless something is done, the jobs will be terminated Nov. 5. Among those who would be put out of work are teachers who have put in 20 years or more in service to the state.
At risk at Patuxent are high school equivalency programs, basic literacy programs, special education programs and a variety of vocational courses ranging from carpentry to automobile repair.
In restoring similar programs at other state prisons, legislators and administration officials alike said they were attempting to protect the state from lawsuits that would be prompted by denying inmates such programs.
"No one wants to see that program end," Sergeant Shipley said. "But Patuxent was forced in these budget cuts to come up with $1,096,000 [in savings], and it was either the [inmate] therapy program or the education program. What it boiled down to was the therapy program was mandated by law and education was not."