About 80 Latino inmates at the Prince George’s County jail in Upper Marlboro on Friday enjoyed a performance by folklorico dancers in colorful dresses and a lunch of tamales and other foods native to their homelands.
The event celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month took place on a mild day in an outdoor courtyard at the jail. Every Hispanic inmate who was not locked down for disciplinary reasons was welcome to attend, said Mary Lou McDonough, director of the county Department of Corrections.
About 90 percent of the inmates who attended and sat on folding chairs were men; a handful were women.
It was the third time jail officials have organized a Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration.
“An inmate who feels they are being respected and treated well is usually better behaved,” McDonough said.
Reflecting the demographics of the Latino population in the county, most of the Hispanic inmates are of Salvadoran descent. Among the speakers at the event, which lasted more than 2 1/2 hours, were representatives from the Salvadoran, Mexican, Colombian, Guatemalan and Honduran embassies.
Another speaker was Amado Gonzales, who was incarcerated there four years ago. During his time in the jail, Gonzales attended the jail’s barber program and earned his GED, McDonough said.
Gonzales spoke in Spanish, which a translator repeated in English.
“Everything is not lost, though you may feel that way,” Gonzales said. “This is an opportunity for you to realize what you can do.”
Gonzales said he now owns his own barber shop and is married. He gave credited to longtime jail chaplain Filiberto E. Romero. Gonzales pointed toward Romero and said, “God, through this man, changed my life.”
Maryland Secretary of State John P. McDonough (husband of Director McDonough) presented Romero with a governor’s citation.