Cumberland Times-News

August 13, 2013

Seeking this NBCI resignation not justified

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

In 1945 World War II was coming to an end and the man who led England and the free world to its success was up for re-election. Winston Churchill was a sure bet to be elected Prime Minister.
There was only one problem. After he ignited his country with that famous speech in 1940 “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” the English people sent him out of office in 1945.
So much for the wisdom of a singing mob.
In the Cumberland Times-News of Aug. 10, I read where the citizens of that community are demanding the resignation of several key prison staff members (“Union: This has got to stop; In wake of stabbing, protesters call for ousters at NBCI”).
They are apparently upset at a recent staff assault and unsafe prison conditions at the North Branch Correctional facility.
I know something about unsafe prison conditions. I was reassigned to a facility after two major prison riots and some serious staff injuries in 1991.
I know what it takes to fix a prison. For the next 12 years at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, there were no further prison riots.
Asking for someone’s resignation is sometimes justified and sometimes not.
AFSCME collects dues from every line officer employee in Maryland. Some of this money is then channeled to their favorite political candidates. Martin O’Malley has been the recipient of some of these funds.
As such, one should come to expect a few more results and safer prisons. Should we ask for the resignation of AFSCME leaders because they collect a lot of money, know the governor well, and let him get away with prison staff shortages, severe overtime allocations, and less than desirable prison leadership?
It’s sometimes good to ask for a bureaucrat’s resignation. They spend too much time in the office and not enough time in the trenches, ready and willing to help fix a problem.
I like secretary Maynard’s problem solving techniques. In the example of those problems at the Baltimore City Detention Center, he went himself to that facility to tackle the problems. 
Just maybe, he should expect the same behavior from all his leaders.
He is after all leading by example. I always liked that.
There was one name, however, mentioned in the referenced article that is totally misplaced. 
Those folks seeking Major Tom Mellott’s resignation at the North Branch facility must be related to those voters in England.
When I built the team at the Maryland Correctional Institution in 1991 to restore order and calm to that facility, Tom Mellott was an integral part of that team.
He has more understanding to the operations of a prison in his little finger then all those self-professing experts who offer little but rhetoric when there is a problem.
Mellott was a very good student and learned much during my 12-year tenure as warden of MCI-H.
Operating a maximum security prison is filled with much difficulty. Real success cannot be realized merely by a call for resignations.
You do need a good team, or otherwise good results will be unattainable.
Prison threats are part of the business. If I had a nickel for every time I was threatened throughout my 34 year career, I would be rich.
There is an obligation nonetheless to protect staff and inmates alike.
It takes everyone working together to achieve that goal.
When incidents occur at a facility where staff and inmates are assaulted, maimed, or killed, something is obviously broken.
The best team is not on the field; the best practices are not in place, and the tail is wagging the dog at North Branch.
Seeking the resignation of Major Tom Mellott in your newspaper, however, is a pathetic error of judgment.
Lloyd “Pete” Waters
Retired prison warden