A Parliamentary Visit to Maryland Correctional Enterprises
Maryland’s prison industry arm is one of the most successful in the nation: a top ten in both number of inmates employed (more than 2,000) and sales (more than $50 million annually). And the success of Maryland Correctional Enterprises (MCE) is now known by the folks who supervise prisons as far away as the United Kingdom as well.
In late February 2011, Kenneth Clarke, the British Secretary of State for Justice, paid a visit to MCE in Jessup and came away very impressed. Clarke, who’s 69 and a 40-year veteran of Parliament, told his MCE touring party that the British version of prison industry tends to be much smaller and less diversified than here in the States.
During his morning spent at MCE, Mr. Clarke visited Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, where more than 170 inmates busily attend to the needs in the graphics shops. He stopped to admire a wall filled with the various printed materials the inmates produce, and was impressed with both the work ethic and finished products.
But most of all, Mr. Clarke marveled at MCE’s success at reducing recidivism and employing not only inmates who will someday be out, but lifers as well. He told of the very few number of lifers in Great Britain, and of the high recidivism rate (more than 70%) among those inmates who do get out. Upon hearing that MCE inmates who work more than one year are less than half as likely as other DOC inmates to come back into the system within three years, Mr. Clarke was astonished. The overall three-year recidivism rate for DOC inmates is roughly 50%; for MCE inmates, it’s less than 24%.
In March, MCE will host the National Correctional Industries Association convention in Baltimore. On the last day of the convention, MCE will conduct a tour of some of its facilities, giving others from across the nation the chance to see why a member of Parliament was so impressed with one of the top ten prison industries in America.