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Keyword: department of corrections

28-Year Department Veteran Has Risen Through the Ranks 

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that he is recommending Gail Watts to be promoted to lead the Baltimore County Department of Corrections (BCDC). Watts, a 28-year veteran of the department and a decorated Army veteran, is currently serving as Acting Director, pending the retirement of Director Deborah Richardson. Her promotion to Director will require County Council approval.

“Gail Watts is a natural leader who balances strong operational discipline with a compassionate people-centered approach that inspires her staff to excel, while at the same time ensuring that the people incarcerated at our detention center have the opportunity to turn their lives around through education, mental health and substance abuse treatment and vocational training,” Kamenetz said. He noted that when Watts was named BCDC employee of the year in 2008, the vote among all department staff was unanimous.

Watts is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the County Detention Center, including programs, security, building operations, budget and finance, staff training and support service contracts. She oversaw the Department’s transition to direct supervision and was instrumental in overhauling the facility’s mental health unit. She started in the Department in September 1990 as a Correctional Officer and served in various positions of increasing responsibility in which she managed work release and home detention programs, staff training, inmate employment, staffing and policy analysis, staff disciplinary procedures, regulatory compliance, and more.

Watts earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Touro University in California and is pursuing her master’s degree in youth and family counseling at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, with an expected graduation date next fall. She served in the United States Army for 30 years, specializing in mission readiness and logistics, and received meritorious service medals for both of her two deployments to Kuwait where she conducted military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the war on terrorism.

“I am honored to be asked to take on this new leadership role and continue to achieve the standards of excellence we are proud to maintain at Baltimore County Department of Corrections,” said Watts.

Director Deborah Richardson Retiring After 38 Years in the Corrections Field

Deborah Richardson will retire from her role as Director on October 13. During her 15 year tenure with Baltimore County, she led the team responsible for coordinating the consolidation and expansion of the County’s correctional facilities. She has been integral in the process of developing policies and procedures to effectively administer this state-of-the art direct supervision facility. 

“I have tremendous respect for Deborah Richardson and sincerely commend for her leadership, which has helped to make our detention center one of the most effective and well-managed facilities in the region,” Kamenetz said. “I wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”


by Sharon Tyler, Program Manager, Baltimore County Department of Corrections

A father, incarcerated in a Maryland jail, was on the phone, reading a book with his son. “They finally have something to talk about together,” said the boy’s mother.

The Turning Pages Family Literacy Program at the Baltimore County Detention Center is reunifying incarcerated parents with their spouses and children. The program offers fathers the opportunity to bond with their children through reading, with the entire family often improving their literacy as they read together.

A team of experienced educators leads father’s workshops and Family Reading Club events. Inmates choose the books they want to read with their children, and receive instruction from volunteers on how to best engage the children. 

Dads and kids gain skills and confidence

The children are excited to visit their dads and spend one-on-one time with them. Children carry the books around, waiting to read to their dads on the phone. Sometimes the dads discuss serious issues with the children, and the books make it easier to talk. 

Over the eight-week program, the fathers cover four genres: stories, story books or classics, nonfiction, and issue-related titles devoted to everything from potty training to behavior. Four family reading events take place in the County Detention Center contact visitation room. Here, fathers read to their children and complete a literacy-related activity. Caregivers also meet to share how they are supporting their children’s literacy development.

Signs of success

Inmates have said they would never have read to their children if not for the Turning Pages program. Others have said they didn’t realize how much fun reading could be, and others report they initially were embarrassed by their own lack of reading skills, but now feel confident reading with their children. 

Months after the program, inmates and their children remain in contact, and literacy skills strengthen, as most parents continue to read aloud to their children and read independently for their own enjoyment.

Flo Kennedy-Stack, a retired Arbutus Middle School teacher who started the Turning Pages program at the Baltimore County corrections facility, sums it up: “Reading is so simple and so loving. The ripples of that simple loving act go out.” 

The Baltimore County Department of Corrections is focused on turning lives around with resources and programs ranging from drug treatment to job training. The department’s Turning Pages Family Reading Club has been recognized as a model program by the National Association of Counties. Visit www.familyreadingclub.com for more information about the program.


County to follow Constitution and sound policing policy

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz issued an Executive Order this morning formalizing the County's public safety policies in light of President Trump's anti-immigration campaign.  Reducing the current practice to written policy, Baltimore County police officers will not unlawfully profile the immigration status of its residents, and the Detention Center will not unlawfully hold any individual past their release date, without a judicial order of detainer.

“As an attorney, I am confident that the Presidential effort to investigate and detain immigrants is contrary to the Constitution, and Baltimore County will not disregard the law protecting individual rights," said County Executive Kamenetz. "The President's directives are causing fear and panic among otherwise law abiding residents.  I am particularly concerned about the impact on children, and the chilling effect that is impacting productive police-community relations.  Children are afraid to go to school, women are afraid to report domestic abuse, and families are afraid to seek medical care in a hospital out of the fear of deportation. We won’t let that happen in Baltimore County. Today’s Executive Order will make that crystal clear.”

Kamenetz’s order states that no Baltimore County Police Officer shall make inquiry into a person's immigration status for the purpose of initiating civil enforcement of immigration proceedings, except in the case of a criminal warrant signed by a judicial official. It also states that no personnel within the Police Department or Department of Corrections shall cause to be detained any individual beyond their court ordered release date, except upon reasonable belief of the existence of an order of detainer issued by a properly recognized judicial official.

Kamenetz also criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threat to withhold federal funds from state and local government that do not comply with the President’s Executive Orders.

“For an administration that claims to value our constitution and our American values, you certainly would not know it by their obvious lack of knowledge of the 10th amendment,” said Kamenetz. “The 10th amendment to the Constitution prohibits the federal government from withholding funds to coerce counties to conform to federal policies unrelated to the appropriation. Baltimore County adheres to the Constitution and to sound policing practices that maintain community trust among residents we are obligated to protect. Like the Muslim ban, I am confident the courts will strike down the Attorney General’s counter-productive threat.”

The complete Executive Order is below:

 

 

EXECUTIVE ORDER

 

LAW ENFORCEMENT STANDARDS ON IMMIGRATION STATUS, DIVERSITY AND EQUITY

 

            WHEREAS, Baltimore County residents fully support our country's rich heritage of welcoming immigrants from around the world who come to America seeking a better life in pursuit of the American Dream; and

 

            WHEREAS, Baltimore County has welcomed an increasingly diverse population that parallels statewide demographics; and

 

            WHEREAS, Baltimore County recognizes that public trust and confidence in local government and law enforcement policies are essential to a fair and orderly government; and

 

            WHEREAS, the Baltimore County Police Department prides itself on the positive relationship that it has maintained with the County’s resident population, including its immigrant community,  and maintenance of positive relationships are key to keeping our neighborhoods safe; and

 

            WHEREAS, as part of that relationship, all residents must feel safe and secure to cooperate with Baltimore County Police Officers to report crimes and offer assistance in resolving criminal activity; and

 

            WHEREAS, from time to time it is necessary to reiterate the policies and precepts necessary to maintain public order and discourse, consistent with the laws of the county, state, and federal governments, their respective judicial branch holdings, and the Constitutions of Maryland and the United States.

 

 

            NOW, THEREFORE, I, Kevin Kamenetz, as County Executive of Baltimore County, on this ____ day of April 2017, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Baltimore County Charter, do hereby promulgate the following EXECUTIVE ORDER for Baltimore County, Maryland:

 

            1. No Baltimore County Department, agency, officer or employee shall discriminate against any person within Baltimore County based on confirmed or suspected race, creed, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, status as a veteran, physical or mental disability, immigration status, and/or inability to speak English.

 

            2. No Baltimore County Department, agency, officer or employee shall condition the provision of County services or benefits on the immigration status of the individual seeking those services or benefits unless such conditions are lawfully imposed by federal or state law.

 

            3. No Baltimore County Police Officer shall make inquiry of a person's immigration status for the purpose of initiating civil enforcement of immigration proceedings, except in the case of a criminal warrant signed by a judicial official.

 

            4.  No personnel within the Police Department or Department of Corrections shall cause to be detained any individual beyond their court ordered release date, except upon reasonable belief of the existence of an order of detainer issued by a properly recognized judicial official.

 

            5. Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed to prohibit any Baltimore County Police Officer or employee from participating in task force activities with county, state or federal criminal law enforcement authorities.

 

            6. Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed to prohibit any Baltimore County Police Officer from investigating violations of criminal law.

 

            7. Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed to prohibit any Baltimore County Police Officer from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in the investigation and apprehension of undocumented immigrants suspected of criminal activity.

 

            8. This Executive Order shall take effect immediately according to its terms.


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017