With only a short notice, virtually no preparation and for some no place in particular to go 33 convicts were released yesterday from Maryland's Patuxent Institution because of a new state law.
Prison officials said that the inmates were informed about a month ago that they "might" be released July 1. But on inmate, interviewed as he waited for a ride outside the prison gates, said the men scheduled for release had recieve official word at about 9:30 yesterday morning. Two hours later, they were gone.
The inmate, who said he would seek a hotel room in Baltimore for the night, was clothed in his prison uniform: gray fatigues.
The men were convicted of crimes ranging from manslaughter and rape to child abuse. They were sent to Patuxent - some as long as 20 years ago - to serve indefinite sentences and undergo psychiatric treatment as "detective delinquents." Under Maryland's controversial Patuxent program, they were to serve until psychiatrists and prison officials felt they should leave.
The lw permitting these indeterminate sentences was radically altered during the last session of the Maryland General Assembly and involuntary %indeterminate" sentences were banned. Because the legislative measure took effect yesterday, the mean got out yesterday.
Officials said all 33 had served at least as long as their orginal sentences.
They would not have been considered for release had the law been kept unchanged to Forest Calhoun Jr., Patuxent's superintendent.
Calhoun said the insitution's social services staff encouraged prisoners to contact Prisoners Aid since the institution "can't do anything" for them unless they have been released on parole.
"These guys were waiting for this (release) for two or three years - every time the legislature considered abolishing indefinite sentences." Calhoun said.
Calhoun said the Ptuxent staff held a smiar for the inmates about a month ago to explain that they might be released some time after July 1. He said the institution was not certain until Thursday night that the court would sign the orders authorizing the prisoners' release by the July 1 deadline. Legally, the court had 90 days after the old law was amended to issue the necessary orders.
The men were told about 9:30 a.m. they could pack their bags, reclaim whatever money they had with them when they were committed to the institution and pick up their release papers, the inmate, who asked not to be named, said. Then they were escorted through two locked gates to the final institution wire gate they were left by a guard, according to the inmate.
No bus transportation was provided for the convicte, although Calhoun said they were told to contact their families or Prisoner Aid.
One convict called for a taxi to take him to Baltimore. Another waited over three hours for some friends of and inmates to pick him up and drive him to Baltimore where he said he would seek a hotel room for the night.
Still another convict with no family to take him in recieved a ride to Baltimore from a kitchen employee at the instittution.
Of the 33 freed prisoners, one was taken by authorities to South Carolina where chargfes are pending against him. Another man was admitted to the Clifton T. Perkins Center because he "became psychotic" over the past week, Calhoun said.
Calhoun said two of the inmates freed yesterday had been sent to the institution originally for a diagnostic study to determine the degree of their mental problems and had nerver been officially committed, but had nevertheless been incarcerated for years.
Patuxent will continue to treat convicts whose criminal activities were directly related either to intellectual deficiency or emotional imbalance, Calhoun said. Patuxuent's inmates may be released as soon as they are considered rehabilated.
The institution was established in 1955 to rehabilitate criminals through psychological and psychiatric treatment.
It was the subject of one of the longest running legislative battles. Liberal legislators for years sought its elimination on the grounds that open-ended prison terms were violations of inmates' civil liberties. It was compared with "The Clockwork Orange" institution in the Anthony Burgess novel.
Supporters argued that the theory of Patuxent was in fa ct an enlightened approach to penology because it linked the length of incarceration to teatment of the convict.
The 1977 session of the General Assembly virtually eliminated the Patuxent Institution as it was created 22 years ago.