The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3 confirmed Wednesday that the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will close two state pre-release facilities by June 30.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) proposed the closure of the Southern Maryland Pre-Release Unit in St. Mary’s County and the Eastern Pre-Release Unit in Queen Anne’s County in his proposed FY2022 operating budget released last week.
“The Governor is continuing his pattern of balancing budget [problems] on the backs of state employees, state services and those who depend on them,” AFSCME Council 3 President Patrick Moran said in a statement. “We urge the Governor to reverse this decision.”
According to a news release issued by AFSCME, the Southern Maryland Pre-Release Unit can house up to 165 inmates, and the Eastern Pre-Release Unit houses 165. About 70 staff members are split between both facilities.
Lt. Latoya Gray, a representative for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, told Maryland Matters in an email that both facilities are running at 30% capacity.
Hogan’s budget would cut all 86 positions at the facilities that were included in the current year budget, as well as the entire budgets for the facilities, about $12.7 million.
According to AFSCME, facility transfer requests from union members will be honored. Plans regarding inmate placement and the future structure of the agency’s pre-release program have yet to be released.
“All affected employees will be transferred to existing vacancies without any loss of status, compensation, or benefits,” Gray said. “The Department will be meeting with union officials to discuss additional details this week.”
Advocates have expressed concern about the placement of the individuals in new facilities that may already be overpopulated and experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
“By further overpopulating already failing correctional institutions, these closures are in actuality risking the well-being, health and lives of the incarcerated population that we represent,” said Julie Magers, director of the Maryland Prisoners’ Rights Coalition. “This is another action on the part of the administration that will further impede and reduce the already limited availability of vital re-entry preparation creating a highly negative impact on those returning to society and the community at large.”
As of Monday, Jan. 25, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ COVID-19 dashboard reported 1,949 confirmed cases among facility staff and 3,842 among inmates.
Since the pandemic began in March, four staff members and 20 inmates have died.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a response from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which was not available when the story was first published.