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Maryland needs to hire over 3,400 corrections officers, union audit finds

Officers stand outside the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center, May 12, 2005, in downtown Baltimore. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
Officers stand outside the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center, May 12, 2005, in downtown Baltimore. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

Staffing levels at correctional facilities across Maryland are dangerously low, according to an audit conducted by the union that represents thousands of corrections officers across the state.

The report– conducted by the Maryland chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal employees, included an analysis of conditions and data from all 19 state-run correctional facilities. It said staffing was at an “all time low” and recommended that the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) hire 3,400 additional corrections officers.

It’s a situation that reflects neither the dignity of corrections officers nor the incarcerated people they work to secure and also protect, said union leaders during a Thursday morning news conference.

“Every day we operate like this puts the people who do these jobs and those we supervise at risk of being seriously hurt,” said Dorian Johnson, a correctional sergeant at the Chesapeake Detention Facility in Baltimore. The report describes situations where just one officer worked an overnight shift, making them responsible for 192 detained people.

Officers say they are overworked, burned out, physically and mentally stressed.

“The way we are currently staffed, there is no room for error or accidents… Officers are working 80 hours a week, they’re getting drafted left and right, plus they’re working over time,” said Rownite Stevens, who works at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland. “We’ve said over and over again that we’re understaffed, and the previous administration frequently ignored our concerns or tried to tell us that we weren’t.”

Union officials claim the Hogan administration did little to address the staffing shortage– instead they claim unfilled vacancies were eliminated all together, exacerbating the problem. They call on Governor Wes Moore’s administration to help alleviate the problem and are “hopeful” for better cooperation.

The DPSCS did not answer WYPR’s request for comment before this piece was published but The Associated Press reported that the Moore administration has already hired 404 additional people, a 62% increase from this time last year.

Maryland is far from unique, states across the country are facing severe staffing shortages in their corrections facilities but this is a problem that the AFSCME has been calling out for years.

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.
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