New MCTC building offers better security and morale

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Correctional officers, prisoners comfortable in new housing unit

A newly completed housing unit at Maryland Correctional Training Center offers improved security, better morale and some relief from overcrowding, prison employees said during a recent tour of the new construction.

The 192-cell Housing Unit 8 opened in June and features lockable cells and 360-degree security cameras, Lt. J.E. Whiteman said. It replaces open-dorm-style Quonset huts that prison officials have said were meant to be temporary relief from overcrowding, but have been in use since 1992.

“Out here it's a much more secure environment,” Sgt. Kelly Barciz said of the new housing unit, in which cell doors are generally left open, but can be closed and locked if needed.

The building is one of three that have been under construction at the medium-security prison south of Hagerstown, said Erin Julius, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. A support and program services building has also been constructed and a medical services building is under way, with completion projected for next spring, she said.

The total construction cost for the three buildings has been $30.7 million to date, Julius said.

The state is also in the process of replacing the prison's steam lines. That project is about two-thirds complete and has cost about $8.4 million to date, Julius said.

Those two projects have created more than 400 jobs, Julius said.

Whiteman said the 360-degree cameras in and around the new housing unit cannot be blocked by inmates during fights the way older models could.

“There's not much that can happen out here that can't be seen by someone,” he said.

Another plus of the new building's cameras is the ability to zoom in and out, said Correctional Officer Adam Horman, one of two officers who were monitoring the 111 cameras from a security booth Friday afternoon.

The new building houses inmates who are enrolled in or have completed the prison's drug- and alcohol-treatment programs, Barciz said. The institution has an Addictions Treatment Program, as well as a more intensive drug and alcohol program called Gaudenzia, she said.

Before the new construction, those programs lacked classroom space, and the inmates' living space was cramped and lacked privacy, Barciz said.

Chelsea Lewis, a counselor with the Gaudenzia program, said that in the new space, the inmates seem more motivated to learn and engage with the group.

“What the guys have told me is they are more comfortable in this environment,” Barciz said. “And when the morale is up, they work better together.”