Save Tamar's Children

April 13, 2006

In 2003, Mary Ann Saar jumpstarted the opening of a promising program that helps nonviolent female inmates develop healthy relationships with their newborn children. But now Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which Ms. Saar directs, wants to stop funding the program, known as Tamar's Children, mainly because of disputes between the two providers who actually run it. That's simply unacceptable; the program must continue.

Tamar's Children puts offenders in a community setting in Baltimore and offers residential and out-patient services that help them get past their issues of trauma, substance abuse and mental health disorders to form better bonds with their children, particularly in the critical first few months. The vast majority of the program's 50 graduates have stayed out of prison since.

Despite that success, Department of Public Safety officials concede that multiple, and often conflicting, funding streams have taken a toll. And the program's two service providers have been at odds for months over funding, program integrity and other issues.

That conflict landed in Baltimore Circuit Court this week, and is headed to the Court of Special Appeals. At risk of getting lost in the legal minutiae are the women and children who are being helped by the program - and the ones who will need that help in the future.

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