Parole panel's chief is replaced Patricia Cushwa, 58, advocate of victims, to lead Md. commission

April 19, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening replaced the longtime head of the (( Maryland Parole Commission yesterday with Patricia K. Cushwa, advocate for victims' rights and a member of the parole panel since 1992.

Cushwa, 58, will succeed Paul J. Davis, who has been chairman of the eight-member commission since 1988 but was not reappointed by Glendening at the expiration of his term in December.

Cushwa, who helped start a victims' advocacy group in her Washington County home 20 years ago, said her appointment is a "strong signal that victims matter."

"This is an opportunity to look at ourselves with a critical eye, to review procedures," said Cushwa, who will assume her new duties in about a month.

The commission considers requests by prisoners to be paroled early from incarceration. The commission also has the power to revoke a released inmate's parole.

The future of parole in state criminal cases is somewhat uncertain because a task force is doing a major study of the way Maryland courts sentence inmates. The task force is expected to consider changes in sentencing that would limit the use of parole and bring its recommendations to the General Assembly next year or in 1999.

The percentage of prisoners released on parole has declined in recent years amid public concerns about safety. And the commission has seen dramatic changes in its operations, with its hearings opened to the public and victims given the right to address commissioners.

In a statement, Glendening praised Cushwa's civic involvement and her views on crime.

"She will play an integral role in our ongoing efforts to make our communities safer," the governor said.

Cushwa, a part-time history instructor at Hagerstown Junior College who lives in Williamsport in Washington County, has served on the Maryland Human Relations Commission and the state school board.

She helped establish the Center Against Spousal Abuse in Washington County and once held a seat on the Williamsport Town Council.

In 1990, Cushwa succeeded her husband, Victor Cushwa, in the state Senate, filling the last six months of his term after he was appointed to the state Public Service Commission. She lost an election bid to retain the seat that November.

Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer named her to a six-year term on the parole commission in 1992, and it is expected that Glendening would appoint her to another six-year term when her current one ends in December.

As chairwoman, Cushwa will continue to hear parole cases along with overseeing the panel's day-to-day operations. Her salary will rise from $65,067 a year to $80,754.

Davis, 56, began his career as a correctional officer at the Baltimore City jail 29 years ago. He rose through the system to become jail warden, before being appointed by Schaefer to the parole commission in 1988.

Davis said he expects to stay on the commission for a few more months, after which he may retire or move to another job in the state public safety system.

Davis was diplomatic about his departure. "I know that a fresh look in leadership is required," he said. "That's how I came here."

He added, "I kind of welcome moving off of the hot seat."

Former Democratic state Del. E. Farrell Maddox of Baltimore County, a commission member since 1995, died last month, leaving one vacancy on the panel.

Seats on the parole commission -- and the salaries they carry -- are generally considered plum patronage appointments in state


Glendening last year appointed Thomas V. Miller III, the 29-year-old son of Democratic Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, to a seat on the commission.

Pub Date: 4/19/97

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