New Director Named to Lead Tumultuous System

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 20, 2007

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said last night that he has tapped a prison system leader with a national reputation to head the state's troubled corrections department.

Gary D. Maynard, who until last night was director of Iowa's Department of Corrections and is president of a national association of prison officials, became the eighth Cabinet nominee O'Malley (D) has identified to join his administration.

"What excites me about Gary Maynard is that he's not only a proven leader, but a proven change agent," O'Malley said in an interview last night. "He rises to challenges."

Maynard will replace Mary Ann Saar, who as secretary under then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) oversaw a spate of prison violence and complaints from correctional guards of staffing shortages.

Maynard had been the prisons director in Iowa since 2003. Before that, he led the South Carolina corrections system and held a series of jobs, most of them in Oklahoma, starting 36 years ago as a counselor in a small work release center in Oklahoma City.

O'Malley said that of all the departments he examined during his transition, Public Safety and Correctional Services stood out as the one with "the deepest challenges."

"The more I looked at it, the more deeply concerned I became," O'Malley said. "We've got a lot of work to do to restore safety and restore morale."

As secretary of public safety, Maynard and his corrections commissioner would oversee a prison system that has been in tumult in recent months. At prisons in Jessup, a guard was fatally stabbed in July, and three inmates were killed in the months before that. Two guards were stabbed and seriously wounded.

Maryland's top prison officials, summoned to Annapolis after the guard's slaying, described a corrections system with too few experienced officers, inadequate training and, at the House of Correction, locks that haven't been updated in two decades.

Using smuggled cellphones, inmates coordinate riots, plan assaults on correctional officers and orchestrate drug trades beyond prison walls, Division of Correction Commissioner Frank C. Sizer Jr. told a panel of state lawmakers.

After the hearing, Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr. (D-Anne Arundel) described the state's prisons as home to "gang activity beyond all our imaginations."

O'Malley's first budget, which he formally submitted to the legislature yesterday, includes an additional $12.8 million to improve operations and enhance security at correctional institutions.

More than half that amount -- $6.7 million -- would be used to hire an additional 155 corrections officers at institutions across the state. The remaining $6.1 million is earmarked to enhance the security camera systems at the Maryland House of Correction and the Jessup Correctional Institution and to replace security equipment at other institutions.

Maynard long served in the Army National Guard, retiring as a brigadier general. He is the author of the book "Correction Officer."

When he ran in 2004 for a leadership post in the American Correctional Association, he said prisons have a mission to protect the public and prison employees. But, he said, "ultimately we must protect the offenders in our supervision. . . . When we help or cause an offender to change their behavior to one that follows the law, we are providing a protection not only for them, but for society as well."

Officials in Iowa Gov. Chet Culver's administration put out word about Maynard's resignation last night several hours after being questioned by The Washington Post about Maynard's future. Culver (D), who took office this year, had recently announced that Maynard would continue to serve in a position he held under then-Gov. Tom Vilsack (D).

"I have accepted Gary's resignation, and I thank him for his service to the state and wish him well in the future," Culver said in a statement last night.

Staff writer Eric Rich contributed to this report.

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