Demagogues come in all persuasions, and unfortunately some are our local politicians. One of these is Sue Mills, member of the Prince George's County Council.
County Executive Parris Glendening, after embarrassing tales of alleged neglect of the old Prince George's County Jail, asked for a nationwide search for a new and able administrator. That search culminated in the hiring of Sam Saxton.
Having worked with Mr. Saxton as a penologist for the U.S. Navy, I believe that the county chose the right man. He won national accolades as the director of the Montgomery County Detention Center. Under his direction, the facility was chosen as a national resource center by the Department of Justice's National Institute of Correction. Mr. Saxton is considered one of the top penologists in our nation. He was recently selected to be president of the American Jail Association by his peers. Mr. Saxton is a professional among professionals.
Correctional administrators are vulnerable to politicians. Their job is not as sexy as law enforcement or firefighting. This makes them easier to fire. The United States has gained 26 new commissioners of corrections since the last gubernatorial election. While chiefs of state police departments are seldom replaced, it is relatively easy for a headline-seeking politician to attack a county executive by attacking his head of corrections. Mrs. Mills criticized Mr. Saxton for the jail's policy of mandatory overtime for prison guards. In addition, she and 20 spouses of corrections officers protested in front of the jail in April. Mrs. Mills stoops mighty low in attacking the integrity and reputation of this honorable man to get at the county executive.
Prince George's County now has the newest of the "new-generation" jails, carefully designed to minimize security problems and violence by using "pods" instead of cells, while offering more opportunities for prisoners interested in starting a new crime-free life.
For Mrs. Mills' information, the new facility is being visited by administrators from all over the country, and many have come from foreign lands to see the new prison. It is replete with self-improvement programs for prisoners, such as academic training, vocational training and counseling. In addition, Mr Saxton has enlisted the assistance of nearly 100 county churches to help released prisoners get a start. Attacking this highly acclaimed man is more than demagoguery, and people of principle and vision are turning against Mrs. Mills' cheap tactics. DAVID A. BAKER College Park