Paul J. Davis, a former warden of the Baltimore City jail and chairman of the Maryland Parole Commission, died of cancer Monday at his Anneslie home. He was 61.
Mr. Davis retired two years ago as deputy administrator of the Baltimore County Bureau of Corrections, and a decade ago he headed the eight-member commission that reviews the sentences of thousands of criminal offenders in the state prison system.
"He was an excellent correctional administrator, a good people person who worked well with his staff. He was a consummate professional," said Melanie C. Pereira, a friend who is director of corrections for Howard County. "He was a fair individual who got where he got through plain, hard work. He had a commitment and care for what he did."
Born in Baltimore and raised in Highlandtown, he attended Polytechnic Institute before serving in the Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. He later earned degrees from Essex Community College and Coppin State College.
In 1968, he was hired as a correctional officer of what was then the city jail. He rose through the ranks and took a job in 1979 as warden of the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup. A year later, he was named warden for the state's prerelease system.
In June 1982, he returned to Baltimore as warden of the city jail, responsible for about 2,500 prisoners and 800 guards and staff members. He served for six years, until Gov. William Donald Schaefer named him chairman of the Maryland Parole Commission in 1988. He held the post until 1997.
"He conducted himself with honor in one of the most difficult and sensitive jobs within the criminal justice system," said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., former director of information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
"Paul was a victims advocate before it was popular to be a victims advocate," Mr. Sipes said. "He would sit for hours and let [victims] have their say. He would be deeply influenced by the great pain the criminal act had caused them and their families."
From 1998 to 2000, Mr. Davis held the county job.
"Paul was a top-notch administrator who really made a difference in upgrading Maryland corrections," said Jim O'Neill, administrator of the Baltimore County Bureau of Corrections. "Over his career, he mentored a lot of correctional people. He was a thinker. He was looking for ways to do things better and in a more humane way."
Mr. Davis belonged to the Maryland Bar Association's correctional reform committee and served on the board of Man Alive Inc., a drug rehabilitation program. He was a former vice chairman of the Maryland Correctional Training Commission and a member of the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Clement Mary Hoffbauer Roman Catholic Church, 1220 Chesaco Ave.
Survivors include his wife, the former Kathryn Winterling; four sons, Paul G. Davis of Bel Air, Darren Davis of Baltimore, and Lee Davis and Russell Davis, both of Cecil County; two daughters, Loretta Kerr of Havre de Grace and Vicky Hoyt of Baltimore; a stepdaughter, Lauren Debelius of Baltimore; and nine grandchildren.