State to add 6 counties to Correctional Options Program

October 22, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

State corrections officials said yesterday that they plan to expand to six Maryland counties a program that provides alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders.

The state plans to expand the Correctional Options Program, a 3-year-old project that has been recognized as a national model, into Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford, Wicomico and Charles counties beginning in January.

In most counties, the expansion will include drug treatment services, job placement and "intensive supervision" of offenders. Plans for Harford County include the establishment of a drug court.

The options project -- which uses programs such as home detention, drug abuse treatment and military-style boot camps to rehabilitate convicts and return them to society -- is being used in Baltimore City and Prince George's County.

The announcement of the program's expansion came at a state Senate subcommittee hearing, where corrections officials touted the success of the options program.

A report on the program presented to the committee at the hearing suggests that it has reduced by 50 percent the chance that an offender will commit a new crime during the first year after release from prison.

"It appears that it does reduce the recidivism rate although the program cannot really solve all of the state's problems," said Patrick Frank, an analyst with the state Department of Legislative Services who presented the report on the options program.

Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services, said that the options program saved the state from having to build one prison, but a maximum-security facility still must be built to accommodate a growing number of violent offenders who are serving longer sentences.

He said that the net increase of inmates for fiscal year 1997, which ended June 30, was the lowest in years -- 143 prisoners, "which is a milestone."

Still, "Maryland is incarcerating violent offenders more than ever before," Robinson said.

Robinson said he wants the state to build a 512-bed prison based on a high-tech prison that is near completion in Virginia.

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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