Maryland Inmates Participate in Holiday Programs

“By Ashley M. Lewis
Capital News Service

With the help of some Hagerstown inmates, tens of thousands of needy families in Baltimore will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner this year.

For the past two weeks, the inmates and staff at the Maryland Correctional Enterprises Meat Plant have de-boned and cooked more than 700 turkeys for the annual Bea Gaddy’s Thanksgiving Dinner. The Bea Gaddy Center in Baltimore has partnered with the correctional facility for at least 15 years to meet its goal of providing a hot Thanksgiving meal for more than 20,000 Baltimore families.

“”If it weren’t for the inmates and staff, we wouldn’t even be able to have this program,”” said Connie Bass, director of the Bea Gaddy Family Center. “”I just adore each and every one of them over there. I can’t say it enough – they’ve been a great asset to this program.””

But the inmates and staff at the meat plant in Hagerstown aren’t the only ones helping out the community this holiday season. Each year, several Maryland correctional facilities host programs designed to give inmates an opportunity to pay society back and connect with their communities.

And with the ongoing economic downturn putting significant strain on dozens of families this holiday season, inmates and staff at correctional facilities have jumped at the opportunity to participate in the programs.

“”The public safety employees are very benevolent and do things unheralded year-round, but their knowledge of families that may be going through a hard time during the holiday season always makes them want to help out a little more during this time of year,”” said Mark Vernarelli, director of public information at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. “”And the inmates love to have the opportunity to serve society.””

On the Eastern Shore, inmates at the Eastern Correctional Institution are building a holiday parade float for the Princess Anne, Pocomoke, Salisbury and Berlin Christmas parades. This year’s float – which is being built with scrap materials – will honor Looney Tunes.

“”This is possibly the only prison in the nation whose inmates annually build floats – and they win top awards in every parade,”” Vernarelli said. “”The public’s been very supportive of this project, and it’s become an absolute thing to do. People come to expect great things from these inmates.””

The Jessup Correctional Institution plans to serve Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for 15 Maryland families.

In Western Maryland, wheelchair-bound inmates at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland will be making Christmas toys for children out of scrap wood. The facility is also planning to have the inmates sew pillowcases for young children battling cancer.

“”We couldn’t be more proud of the benevolence of these men and women that are serving their community during the holidays,”” Vernarelli said. “”Inmates generally want to pay society back, and this gives them a real feeling that they’re doing that.””