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#OccupyTowson wrong about prison industries

Towson University activists get it wrong in asking for a boycott of Maryland Correctional Enterprises.

The "Request of the Black Students at Towson University" specifies numerous demands that will make Towson University more inclusive and responsive to the black students on that campus ("The lesson of #OccupyTowson," Nov. 19). However, there is one request that does not make any sense. Specifically, No. 4 asks that the college take steps to terminate the contract with the Maryland prison system on the grounds that it exploits the labor of black inmates.

Maryland Correctional Enterprises (MCE) is the prison industry within the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS). While producing many goods that are purchased by state agencies, it also provides real life work experience for inmates. It operates like a private sector business and is self-supporting. According to a DPSCS Fact Sheet, over a 14 year study period, inmates who worked for MCE while serving their sentence had a 60 percent lower recidivism rate than other Division of Correction inmates.

I feel that this is one of the most positive programs in the state that supports the successful re-entry into the community for inmates. The incarceration rate for blacks is disproportionate to that of while citizens. There is also no doubt that incarceration has an adverse effect on individuals, families and the community. While one goal of our "corrections" system is rehabilitation, that outcome is elusive and rarely achieved.

There are many other aspects of our justice system that could be targeted for discriminatory practices against minorities. However, this is one program that benefits all who participate, including inmates of color.

Linda L. Fleischer, Baltimore

The writer is chair of Criminal Justice Studies at the Community College of Baltimore County.

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