Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

February 10, 2014

NBCI officers losing confidence in management

The recent firing of North Branch Correctional Institution Warden Bobby P. Shearin has shaken the confidence of correctional officers in high level managers at the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Officers at the maximum security NBCI perform a particularly dangerous and necessary job. The vast majority of NBCI officers had faith in Warden Shearin to support measures providing the highest possible level of safety, both for officers and for inmates.

After an unprecedented spike in assaults, resulting in 15 officers assaulted in one month late last year, union members called for the resignations of North Region Executive Director Jon Galley, North Region Director Rod Sowers and Deputy Secretary James Michael Stouffer as well as security staff directly responsible for security lapses; we did not call for the firing of Warden Shearin.

And we did not because we believed the warden had our back. Officers and inmates were made more safe by his decisions to place the facility on lockdown when credible intelligence of threats of violence existed.

The press spokesperson for DPSCS recently told media the state made the change “in order to move more quickly to restoring the prison to normal operations.”

Does a return to normal operations mean the level of operations that made 15 officer assaults in a month possible? Does this “return to normal” mean not using lockdowns to improve safety for officers and inmates?

Officers believe that the highest level of DPSCS management seems much more interested in obtaining national accreditation from outside Maryland entities that cost taxpayers money than in maintaining safety and security for officers and inmates.

The Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services can significantly direct the Maryland Correctional Training Commission which sets standards for Maryland prisons.

We do not need to spend our taxpayer money on an outside Maryland entity to achieve national standards when the Secretary already has the power to achieve them for free by setting our standards to national accreditation standards for free.

Officers have been told at all roll call meetings to be ready for change because it is coming, but no description of what that change is has been detailed.

We can already read the writing on the wall based on the change the state has made: Decreased security measures which could lead to another spike in inmate and staff assaults.

I am a correctional officer at NBCI and president of AFSCME Local 898.

Jeff Grabenstein

Cumberland

 

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