A Record of Putting Safety First for Maryland’s Correctional Officers
As secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the safety of all who encounter our corrections system is my top priority, both for our inmate population and our correctional officers.
In 2015, I was proud to join Governor Larry Hogan as we stood in the yard of the decrepit Civil-War era Baltimore City Detention Center and boldly announced its immediate closure due to increasingly unsafe conditions for correctional officers. The governor also shut down the equally deplorable Jail Industries building, located right across the street. And due to declining inmate populations over the last 10 years, we were able to shut down half of the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, allowing us to transfer officers elsewhere. All told, since Governor Hogan took office, Maryland has reduced our inmate population at a greater rate than any other state in the nation.
These accomplishments represent just part of the Hogan administration’s ongoing and demonstrable commitment to improving Maryland’s prison system.
The Hogan administration has been equally committed to recruiting new correctional officers. In 2017, the governor approved a $5,000 recruitment bonus to attract new correctional officers who can now earn $3,000 for completing the academy, as well as another $2,000 for remaining with the department a year. The governor also supported a $3,000 retention bonus to employees with good attendance and performance, offering an additional $500 to any correctional officer who recommends a successful candidate.
Additionally, the governor also showed his dedication to Maryland’s correctional officers by adding them to the Hometown Heroes law this year, which allows retired officers to exempt a portion of their retirement income from state income taxes. Governor Hogan has vowed to continue fighting to expand the legislation so that 100 percent of retirement income is exempt.
Just this month, Governor Hogan announced that state correctional officers will be eligible for assistance in paying off their student loans or helping their children pay college costs. This latest incentive applies to state employees in specified shortage areas, which includes correctional officers.
At our Department, we are aware of our challenges and are working hard every day to fix them. But this is not just Maryland’s problem, it’s a national one. As Secretary, I sit on a national committee with 49 fellow secretaries of public safety who are all struggling to find qualified candidates and develop innovative ways to hire quality correctional officers in an era of dire shortages across the nation.
In anticipation of the shortage, we initiated “Operation Hire,” holding recruiting events in regions of the state where we have correctional facilities. We have held a total of 325 events throughout Maryland communities, from Walmart parking lots to colleges and churches. Recently, we took the unique step of seeking private recruiters to help us find and hire good correctional officers, allowing us to extend our reach for the best and brightest.
The safety of our workers and inmates remains our top priority and we stand committed to continuing to find real solutions. We will continue to welcome all ideas – including those from our critics – to ensure Maryland has the safest prison system possible.
Stephen T. Moyer is Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services