Key lawmakers want to keep inmate classes

February 09, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Key lawmakers appealed to Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday to reverse his plan to sharply curtail the state's prisoner-education program, a cut they say is shortsighted.

The leaders of the legislature's two budget committees wrote the governor to ask him to restore the program, most of which is slated to end in April.

"It's important that we continue to provide the opportunity for education and vocational training," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee.

"The reason is that 99 percent of these people get out of jail. If we want them to stay out of prison, we better give them something to do," said Ms. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat.

Joining her in the plea was Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

About 3,700 of the state's 21,000 inmates are enrolled in prison schools, which awarded 985 high school diplomas and 779 work-skills certificates last year.

Mr. Glendening has proposed cutting the program at the end of April to save the state $3.6 million over 14 months, largely by laying off 51 teachers.

Under the governor's proposal, the state would offer only special education classes for inmates under 21 and a 90-day basic skills class for those who cannot read at an eighth-grade level.

In an interview, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he, too, wants to restore the prison education efforts.

"It doesn't make sense to cut a program that has proven beneficial over the years," said Mr. Miller, a Prince George's Democrat. "It's penny-wise and pound-foolish."

Dianna D. Rosborough, Mr. Glendening's press secretary, said he has not decided about restoring the cut, but noted that the governor had to make "some extremely tough budget decisions."

To restore the program, Mr. Glendening must be persuaded to submit a supplemental budget with funding for the prison instruction.

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