Wardens and other representatives of five of the eight Jessup-area state prisons told a local citizen board last night that they would inform it when convicts -- particularly sex offenders -- are released into the community.
But the officials said that they were concerned that announcing the release of every inmate convicted of a serious crime could place residents in a perpetual state of fear. And if the community knows the name of the person freed, that could put the freed convict in danger, they said.
"What if that person is harassed?" Maxine Eldridge, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, asked the three members of the Citizens' Advisory Board for Correctional Institutions, Jessup.
"Somebody could harm him, kill him or his family," Ms. Eldridge said.
Board members countered by saying that officials should be concerned for the public safety rather than for someone who has been convicted of a serious crime.
And as for the community remaining in a constant state of fear, "I think it's better to be frightened," said board member Ruth Kalinowski.
"I would like to know if a pedophile or a rapist is being released into the community," she said.
The regular quarterly meeting between the board and prison officials lasted about two hours.
During the meeting, board chairwoman Melanie Gutjahr expressed anger over the case of Thurman Alexander Moore, who was arrested on charges of attempted rape less than two months after being released from the Division of Correction's Mental Health Unit at Patuxent Institution.
Moore, who was convicted in 1974 of raping an 11-year-old girl, was sent to Patuxent in July 1992 because of mental illness. He was freed July 14 on a mandatory release -- with time off for good behavior -- after serving 19 years of a 25-year sentence.
On Sept. 2, Moore was arrested and charged with the attempted rape of a Columbia woman. He is scheduled to be tried on Jan. 5.
Ms. Gutjahr, a two-year member of the board, learned about Moore's release only after he was arrested on the recent charge.
She said that she wants to know the next time someone who committed a serious crime is released so she can look out for her daughter, herself and her community. And prison officials agreed to provide that information.
"At least this way I feel we have some type of empowerment," Ms. Gutjahr said.
She said the board would pass the names of released prisoners to residents through community association meetings, local news media and telephone.
Information about released prisoners is already public.
"I know the very list you're talking about has been available for 25 or 30 years," James Carter, warden at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, told the board.
The wardens are currently deciding how they will provide the information to the board. No deadline has been set for establishing a procedure.
Leonard Sipes, a spokesman for Public Safety and Correctional Services, said one way the information could be passed to the community is through local police departments, which have computer access to the list of released prisoners.