Rethink Patuxent, prisons chief says

November 07, 1991|By Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- The state should abandon its elusive goal of trying to rehabilitate inmates at the Patuxent Institution, Maryland's prisons chief said yesterday.

Instead, Bishop L. Robinson told a legislative committee that more manageable problems, such as treating inmates with mental illnesses or those hooked on drugs or alcohol, should receive state priority.

Mr. Robinson, the secretary of public safety and correctional services, also recommended that certain young criminals who are ineligible for the state's boot camp program be sent to basic education courses to be offered at Patuxent.

Ironically, the recommendations came a day after budget cuts closed the Jessup institution's education program.

Mr. Robinson's proposals represented the conclusions of a 12-member task force created in May to re-evaluate Patuxent's mission of rehabilitating criminals through counseling and psychological programming.

Legislators called for a new mission after a February report that Patuxent inmates were more likely than other prison inmates to be rearrested after release.

Yesterday's recommendations were greeted coolly by members of the House Appropriations subcommittee.

"Nothing has proven to work with real criminals except keeping them in jail," said Delegate Robert L. Flanagan, R-Howard. "The longer you keep them off the streets, the safer we are."

To reduce recidivism and contain a prison population of 21,000 that is expanding by more than 100 inmates a month, he should be free to try new approaches, Mr. Robinson said.

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