Colonel wants to move boot camp to Ft. Meade

September 11, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

The Fort Meade garrison commander announced yesterday that he has recommended that the Herman L. Toulson Correctional Boot Camp be relocated from Jessup to the Odenton Army base.

Col. Robert G. Morris III told a gathering of unhappy community leaders and elected officials that after weighing many factors -- including community risk and economic impact -- he decided that moving the program to Fort Meade would benefit both the base and the program and would not harm residents.

Colonel Morris said he forwarded his recommendation to First U.S. Army and Fort Meade Commander Lt. Gen. James H. Johnson Jr., who also approved it. It now goes to an assistant secretary of the Army for final approval.

Under a proposed lease agreement, the state, which runs the camp, will renovate 29 World War II barracks on 15 1/2 acres on the northern edge of the base. The Army has no part in the operation of the camp, but merely rents space to the state correctional system.

As part of the rent agreement, camp inmates will provide 2,000 hours of labor each week to the base, principally in maintaining the grounds.

The camp, which will expand from 365 to 500 civilian inmates, is a rigorous six-month course that aims to change the attitudes of first- and second-time nonviolent offenders.

The facility will be surrounded by a 16-foot-high fence topped by razor wire, and shielded from the street by a berm and trees. It will be about 100 yards south of Route 175, across from the Seven Oaks housing development, which will eventually include 4,700 homes.

Intense community opposition erupted after the proposed transfer was announced by Colonel Morris' predecessor, Col. Kent Menser, and is expected to continue.

In making his decision, Colonel Morris said, he considered the level of risk to the surrounding community, "And I've got to tell you, in my risk analysis, I didn't find much."

The bottom line, he said, was that "I believe it's simply the right thing to do. It positively addresses the wider societal issues here, and I could in no good conscience turn these people away."

County Executive Robert R. Neall, the districts' General Assembly delegation and the Maryland congressional delegation have all publicly opposed moving the boot camp to Fort Meade.

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