WCI inmates restore LaVale playground
Cumberland Times News

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LaVale — Adding yet another achievement to the growing list of statewide “restorative justice” projects that benefit communities and non-profits, inmates from Western Correctional Institution have completed the restoration of a playground near the Lions Club on Braddock Road. The project removed trees and weeds that had made the playground less than desirable.

“It was very much overgrown and not altogether safe,” said Bill Jewell, who attends LaVale Civic Association meetings, and recommended inmate labor be brought in to spruce up the site.

Jewell knows well the success of inmate labor: before retiring as WCI’s Administrative Officer last year after 15 years, he had personally supervised dozens of local inmate labor projects, from the Dan’s Mountain cleanup to massive work along the rail-trail in downtown Cumberland.

Five minimum-security inmates from WCI visited the LaVale playground three times, transforming the long-neglected and overgrown area.

The inmate project falls under the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) Public Safety Works initiative. Inmate Public Works Coordinator John Rowley, who is based in Cresaptown, has 418 inmates working outside the prisons statewide this week on a variety of projects designed to allow them to repay society and learn valuable work skills, while completing projects local governments and non-profit agencies could not otherwise afford to have done.

In the past several days alone, Maryland inmates have placed sandbags in preparation for Hurricane Irene, restored an endangered cemetery on the bank of the Chesapeake Bay and harvested tons of fruits and vegetables from farms that are donating to the Maryland Food Bank.

Past efforts include replanting an orchard at Antietam National Battlefield, replenishing the state’s oyster population and planting a million trees in less than three years, to name just a few.