Visitation program wins $2,000 gift Effort unites inmates with their daughters

January 21, 1996|By SUN STAFF

The Columbia Towne Rotary Club will donate $2,000 to the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland on Jan. 31 for "Girl Scouts Behind Bars," a nationally admired program in which female prison inmates in Maryland regularly visit with their daughters as members of Girl Scout Troop 2140.

Pat McCullough, chairwoman of the Rotary Club's Community Service Projects, was instrumental in arranging the gift.

Twenty inmates at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women at Jessup, in a program considered the first of its kind in the United States, join their daughters every other week in Troop No. 2140.

The program was started in 1992 after approval by Melanie C. Pereira, then warden.

Twelve states have imitated the Maryland program.

Ms. Pereira, now deputy commissioner for the state Division of Correction, has expanded the program to a lower-security unit, the Baltimore Pre-Release Unit for Women.

With $30,000 in grant money a year, about 30 girls ages 7 to 15 are picked up two Saturdays a month and brought to the Jessup prison. On the other Saturdays, they go to a Baltimore church for Scout meetings. Some are sisters.

At the prison, the benefits are obvious, officials said. Lt. Rebecca Arnold said women who used to be rowdy settle down when they join Girl Scouts. They dress more nicely, wake up on time and follow the rules.

Florence Chambers, 27, just joined the group and heard her daughter say "I love you. I miss you." The mother later said, "I just hope when the moms all go home, they all stick to being like they are here. I'm just sorry that my life had to bring me here to make me realize how important my kids are to me."

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