Clean start for jail class Ordnance Road inmates finish treatment, studies

'Major accomplishment'

New facility offers support groups and family therapy

July 10, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

"I love this place," said Patrick R. Aldridge, expressing a seemingly strange sentiment about his current home, the county's new Ordnance Road Correctional Center.

"If I've got to do jail, I want to do it here," said Aldridge, 24, of Crofton, who arrived in February on a drunken driving conviction and is serving a concurrent one-year sentence on another charge.

Yesterday, he and 59 other inmates marched into the center's gleaming gymnasium to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" to be honored for completing drug treatment and academic programs. As beaming relatives watched and County Executive John G. Gary delivered a speech, the graduation was the first such ceremony for this group of participants, many of whom have never completed high school or any program.

Aldridge drank and lost his work-release privilege in March, but on his second try he finished a six-week, intensive, drug-treatment program to earn his spot at the graduation.

Sporting a royal blue graduation gown, he said, "This is the longest I've been clean. This is a totally new world for me."

For jail officials and inmates, the ceremony -- the second since February -- is an example of the way they are doing things.

The Anne Arundel County Detention Center in Annapolis -- for years the county's only jail -- was too cramped for support-group meetings, classes and family therapy. The Ordnance Road facility was built with rooms for such programs. Also, while staff at Jennifer Road could work with only 10 inmates at a time in an informal drug-abuse prevention group, the new facility has enough addiction counselors to work with 40 inmates at a time in daily meetings during a six-week program.

Anne Arundel Community College operates the education program, running inmates through computer, reading, math and language classes four days a week. They also teach resume writing and job-interview skills.

The $29.5 million Ordnance Road jail, home to 350 inmates, opened in February to alleviate crowding at the county jail on Jennifer Road, where more than 700 inmates were housed in a structure built for 570. People charged with less serious crimes, such as theft and fraud, and serving sentences of 18 months or less are sent to Ordnance Road, where they can become eligible for work release.

Inmates awaiting trial, convicted of violent crimes or serving sentences longer than 18 months will be sent to Jennifer Road, where a $15 million renovation has begun.

Wendy Winchester, a 28-year-old Edgewater resident, has spent time in both facilities. She has been at the Ordnance Road center since April on burglary and theft charges.

Winchester said she didn't feel like doing anything but sitting and passing the time last year at Jennifer Road.

But in Glen Burnie, she has completed a six-week academic program, attends a drug abuse support group and wants to join the intensive drug abuse treatment program. She's set to take a GED test in August.

"This is a major accomplishment for me," said Winchester, who dropped out after the eighth grade.

June Karis was among the approximately 50 friends and family members at the ceremony. She made the trip from Clinton in Prince George's County for the first time since her son was jailed on charges of violating a restraining order.

"I'm really proud of him. This will be the first graduation I'll go to with any of my kids," said Karis, who has six sons.

As Timothy Karis, 33, walked in front of the stage to shake hands bTC with Gary and accept a certificate, Karis clapped and waved.

Pub Date: 7/10/98

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