Fort Meade may get boot camp Prison program would expand

June 10, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The Herman L. Toulson Correctional Boot Camp could b moved from Jessup to Fort Meade next year if details can be worked out between the Army and state prison officials.

Officials said the earliest a decision could come is next June, but the Pentagon gave Fort Meade permission last month to study the proposal further.

The camp, which would expand from 365 to 500 inmates if moved onto the Odenton post, would be placed about 100 yards south of Route 175 near Route 32, across the street from the massive Seven-Oaks development, which eventually will have 4,700 homes.

Fort Meade said in a statement released yesterday that Col. Kent D. Menser, the garrison commander, has taken no position on whether the camp should be moved to the post.

A spokesman would not comment on how a state-run prison facility would fit into Colonel Menser's plans for a federal office park and education complex.

The facility would be in the same area as the $40 million science center and laboratory that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to build on 20 acres.

"Colonel Menser has maintained in the past and continues to stress that he is neutral on the proposal and that he wants his staff to gather as much information as possible before any decision to proceed further is made," the Fort Meade statement said.

But state officials are upbeat about their proposal, which was first made public in October.

"I've heard that Colonel Menser wants to move this project along," said Robert McWhorter, the boot camp administrator for the state Department of Correction. "He has his staff moving as diligently as they can."

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has taken a personal interest in the proposal.

"He really wants this to happen," said the governor's spokeswoman, Paige Boinest. "It's a win-win situation as far as ,, the state is concerned. The space is available at Fort Meade. We think the boot camp is a good program, and an opportunity to expand it is attractive."

About 600 inmates have graduated from the boot camp, a rigorous six-month course aimed at changing the attitudes of first- and second-time offenders. Most have been imprisoned on assault or drug charges. Prison officials say a majority of the graduates have not returned to jail.

Moving the camp would free up space for more minimum-security inmates at Jessup, state officials said.

Odenton leaders said they were surprised to hear plans had progressed so far without their hearing from Colonel Menser, who has been praised for keeping neighboring communities up to date on post activities.

"The public should be involved before a decision is made," said Norman Myers, president of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association. "If they have plans on where they are going to locate on Fort Meade, then they've gone further then general discussion. This is the time community groups need to be involved.

"Seven Oaks residents are quite a bit of concerned. I think they try to stick all of this stuff in West County. There is no need to keep building them in the same general area of the state."

Mr. McWhorter said the state wants to use several old barracks at Fort Meade, which would be surrounded by a 16-foot-high fence. The boot camp would be between Chamberlin and Chisholm avenues off 4th Street.

In exchange for the land at Fort Meade, Mr. McWhorter said, officials are discussing having boot camp inmates perform maintenance work on the base and possibly in Odenton.

But Mr. McWhorter described the proposal as "very preliminary." Ms. Boinest said the idea "is in the Army's court right now."

A final decision will be made by the Department of the Army after the base submits a complete package, officials said, adding that public input will be included.

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