No prerelease for lifers is being protested

July 16, 1993|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Saying it is unfair to remove inmates serving life sentences from the state prerelease program, a prisoners' rights group plans to protest the action tonight outside Division of Correction headquarters in Northwest Baltimore.

Members of the Maryland Prison Renewal Committee said they were appalled by the division's action last month to temporarily remove lifers from the family-leave and work-release components of the prerelease program.

"It's not just any Tom, Dick or Harry who they allow in the prerelease program, and most lifers on work-release have done quite well," Beverly Nur, one of the committee's 150 members, said yesterday.

Organizers said the aim of tonight's protest is to make correctional officials aware that inmates serving life terms have people on the outside who are concerned about them and support them.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the Division of Correction, said the prerelease program and lifers' role in it are being reviewed by correctional officials.

Correctional officials last month removed lifers from the prerelease program after Rodney G. Stokes, a convicted murderer who was on work-release, shot and killed his girlfriend at the woman's place of employment. Stokes then fatally shot himself.

In another incident that drew wide publicity and scrutiny of the prerelease program, convicted cop-killer Samuel Veney failed to return to a prerelease center from a two-day family leave on April 18. Veney was recaptured April 25 in New York.

Olinda Moyd, director of the prison renewal committee, said she sent a letter to Richard A. Lanham Sr., the commissioner of correction, asking for a careful review before a decision is made on whether or not to restore lifers to the program.

"They [the inmates] need some type of integration into society before they come out," said Ms. Moyd, an attorney who specializes in prisoners' rights cases. "They are on work-release because they have followed all of the prison [system's rules] and have no infractions." She said the majority of inmates in pre-release have caused no trouble. She said it is unfair to compare other inmates in the program with Stokes.

"It's our contention that someone who is going to do something like that could be a lifer or a next-door neighbor," Ms. Moyd said.

The protest is to start at 7 o'clock tonight in front of Division of Correction headquarters in the 6700 block of Reisterstown Road.

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