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Corrections officials say state will continue running Public Safety Compact

Stephen T. Moyer
Stephen T. Moyer

State corrections officials said Friday that they intend to keep running an initiative that releases inmates from Baltimore early into drug treatment programs.

The state allowed an agreement called the Public Safety Compact to expire last week. The compact directed money saved on incarceration to pay for drug treatment and other services.

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The state has terminated its agreement with the Safe and Sound Campaign, the Baltimore nonprofit that administered the compact. But Stephen T. Moyer, the state secretary of public safety and correctional services, said officials still intend to connect participants with the services it has provided under the compact.

His department "is still running this program," Moyer said in Annapolis.

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Seventy-five people who were approved for the program but remain incarcerated will be released early as scheduled, said Tanya Smith, chief administrator of the state's Parole Commission.

"There was a little bit of confusion initially as to what was going to happen with that population," Smith said. "It has been determined and we are moving forward with those releases."

The Public Safety Compact was launched with private foundation grants. The first inmates were released in 2010.

State officials said a review this year revealed that the 2008 memorandum of understanding with the Safe and Sound Campaign did not adhere to state contracting rules. They said the public safety department should have solicited bids for a contract.

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Parole agents will continue to supervise more than 300 people who have been released under the compact. If the state needs additional resources, Moyer said, it will bid out those services.

Safe and Sound executive director Hathaway Ferebee said her organization does not oppose soliciting bids for the contract, but the abrupt end of the agreement raised concerns about interrupting services for clients.

"They canceled the compact out of the blue," Ferebee said. "They have never told us they were continuing it."

The Public Safety Compact is "not a single service," she said, but a financing tool and a way of rethinking the issue of incarceration.

Money saved on incarceration costs was shared between the state and Safe and Sound.

Case managers with Safe and Sound helped Public Safety Compact clients with getting bus passes and proper IDs and finding transportation and mental health services, Ferebee said. Clients have mentored one another and passed on job leads. Participants also received funds to pay for work tools and back child support.

"Drug treatment does not get you a job," Ferebee said. "You need a lot of counseling and coaching."

According to Safe and Sound, the recidivism rate for graduates after three years ranges from 6.5 percent to 9 percent. The state recidivism rate is 40.5 percent.

After The Baltimore Sun reported the Public Safety Compact had expired, Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen and other officials called for it to continue.

State officials emphasized Friday that they agree with the philosophy behind the compact.

"The only thing that's changing is the state is no longer paying the middleman to continue to do the program," said Arlene Lee, executive director of the Governor's Office for Children.

She added that the state has "great respect" for the Safe and Sound Campaign.

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