State prisons chief to step down

May 17, 2007|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,sun reporter

Less than a year after taking over as Maryland's prisons chief, John A. Rowley says he plans to step down to become warden of a maximum-security prison near Cumberland.

Rowley said yesterday that he sought the change for "quality of life" reasons. Overseeing the state's 26 prisons and staff of 7,400, he said, was a time-consuming job that had became too disruptive to his family life.

Public Safety Secretary Gary D. Maynard praised Rowley's performance and said he will remain the acting commissioner of correction until a suitable replacement can be found.

"John's a pleasure to work with and a knowledgeable correctional veteran," Maynard said. "He first approached me quite some time ago about returning to the job of warden, and I understand why he wants to do that."

Rowley, 57, was warden at the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup when he was asked in August to replace Frank C. Sizer Jr. Rowley had spent most of his corrections career in Pennsylvania and had been working in Maryland for a little more than a year at the time of his appointment.

Sizer was forced out after the stabbing death of a corrections officer at the nearby Maryland House of Correction in Jessup, an antiquated maximum-security prison that was closed this year. Another officer had been killed a few months earlier by an inmate in Hagerstown.

The killings occurred during a time of increasing turmoil in Maryland's prisons, including inmate-on-inmate violence and attacks on correctional officers.

Rowley met with wardens and staff members across the state after his appointment to discuss ways to improve security. He played a key role when Maynard ordered the closing of the House of Correction and secretly moved prisoners to federal facilities and other state prisons.

Rowley said he has enjoyed being commissioner but that time with his family is a higher priority for him than work.

"I did what I had to do as far as getting the division stabilized, and it's time for me to get my life stabilized," Rowley said.

He said he is to become warden at the maximum-security North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland after he steps down as commissioner. The new prison, adjacent to the Western Correctional Institution, has been opening in phases.

In advertising for a replacement for Rowley, state officials say they are looking for an experienced corrections administrator with a "demonstrated ability to successfully effect changes in the cultural attitudes of a large organization."

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