More than 500 on probation in Allegany County
08/23/2011
Cumberland Times-News - Online

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CUMBERLAND — Of 540 people currently being supervised by the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation in Allegany County, 10 are accorded much stricter supervision through the agency's Violence Prevention Initiative that targets the most violent offenders. Statewide, there are 2,100 such offenders identified through the VPI initiative.

“We want them to be successful and stay out of prison but if they sneeze, we bring them back in,” said Gary Maynard, secretary of the Maryland Department of Pubic Safety and Correctional Services during a visit Monday to the Times-News.

Criteria used to identify the state's most violent offenders include record of use of a gun in a crime, assault history and early juvenile records. Various other indicators are used to categorize an individual as a most violent offender.

As part of the DPSCS, the Division of Parole and Probation locally employs approximately 15 people in its Cumberland office.

Parole and probation agents make three contacts every week in supervising people in the VPI program.

Started in 2007, the VPI?program works with local law enforcement to keep violent offenders off the street, although the Division of Parole and Probation has no authority to revoke an offender's supervision. However, the agency does request issuance of violation of probation warrants through the courts or the parole commission that lead to offender revocations.

In fact, more than 6,800 warrants were issued by the courts and the parole commission in the last two fiscal years that took 3,044 of the state's most vi-olent offenders off the streets.

The VPI?program was one of various topics addressed by Maynard during an hour-long discussion with the Times-News editorial board that included publisher Larry Effingham and managing editor Jan Alderton.

Accompanied by Rick Binetti, DPSCS Office of Communication executive director and Danielle Lueking, deputy public information officer, Maynard provided an overview of the Western Correctional Institution and the North Branch Correctional Institution at Cresaptown where approximately 3,000 inmates are housed in both maximum-security prisons.

An estimated 1,060 people are employed at both prisons that are located on U.S. Route 220 south, a short distance from the Allegany County Detention Center. An estimated $69 million is paid annually in salaries, wages and benefits for the prison workers.

Maynard also said construction that has involved about 200 jobs at WCI?and NBCI are continuing, including a Maryland Correctional Enterprises up-holstery shop that will provide about 100 jobs for inmates. The shop at NBCI will re-upholster furniture for governmental and non-profit entities and will be staffed by six employees.

Construction on vocational shops at WCI is also continuing for training of inmates in various skills, including welding, culinary arts and facilities maintenance.

The Maryland prison system incarcerates an estimated 12,000 new prisoners annually — about the same number that are released statewide in a 12-month period. It costs approximately $88 daily to house one inmate in the Maryland prison system, according to DPSCS figures.