Gov. Harry Hughes said yesterday that Maryland's correctional system has been the victim of years of shoddy management and it will take time and much effort to correct its deficiencies.
Hughes' comments came at a press conference in Annapolis the day after release of a prison report asserting that security at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup is so lax that inmates have unsupervised access to tools that could be used as weapons.
It was from that medium-security prison that 30 inmates escaped last month, leading to charges that the governor's correctional philosophy was "soft" on discipline.
Hughes said the report, prepared by a private consultant after the escape, was not surprising and added that the problem is "far broader" than Jessup.
"I would like to reiterate what I've been saying for some time," Hughes said in a prepared statement, "especially in view of talk about [my] philosophy on corrections . . . to lock up criminal offenders with no attempt at rehabilitation is not only inhumane, it is ineffective and can actually increase the danger to the public.
"The correctional philosophy of this administration will insist upon effective management, tight security and proper placement of criminals within the correctional system."
Hughes reiterated his belief that the key issue in the problem-plagued correctional system is leadership. Last month, five wardens -- including Jessup's -- were fired. Hughes also ordered the hiring of 150 additional security guards statewide.
"There has been shoddy management in the past, there have been breaches of security and there is a need for better screening of prisoners as they move through the system," Hughes said. ". . . The important thing is that after years of lassitude we have finally begun that effort" to correct the system.