The midshipmen also heard directly from inmates about their attempts to navigate prison life—and with this experience, they learned that many incarcerated people do want to change, and in fact, turn their lives around with the help of the people and programs inside the facility.

“What you see today,” intoned Secretary Robert Green, the 38-year correctional veteran who leads the MD Dept. of Public Safety and Correctional Services DPSCS), “is that we are not what you see on TV, in the movies, or in the entertainment industry. We are professionals who run orderly facilities where far more than incarceration occurs.”

The event was the fulfillment of a special request from a professor at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, a revered institution just a few miles—-but worlds away—-from the sprawling DPSCS prison complex in Jessup, about mid-way between Baltimore and Washington, which is home to no fewer than five correctional centers.

Another highlight of the pre-tour gathering was the students meeting a number of officers who are also military veterans—-or still-active reservists—- who talked about the field of corrections. Several told the young Midshipmen that corrections are an ideal field to come to when they get out of the military.

“We are basically a small city,” said Commissioner of Correction Annie Harvey. “We provide 24-hour care: meals, medicine and health care, programs, education, and services. It’s a huge responsibility to care for human beings, and we take it very seriously.”

Then came the tour—-and the midshipmen saw it all: from housing units to the yard, to the fascinating MD Correctional Enterprises shops, where women learn trades and skills as varied as legal assistance and interior space planning utilizing state-of-the-art Auto CAD software.

“The shop visits and talking to those women was amazing,” said one female student. “That part of the reform process is what you really don't see on TV, and it was cool to see the opportunities afforded.”

Along the way, the special visitors learned that incarcerated women train service dogs for wounded veterans, work jobs in the community, get their GEDs and even take college courses, and perform restorative justice jobs that help pay society back. And most of all, they learned that the prison “narrative” is not what they expected

“Seeing the prison firsthand was an eye-opening experience,” remarked a midshipman. “Media usually only shows the bad parts of prison life, but this trip showed that many inmates are regular people trying to serve out their sentence and grow while doing so.”

The tour also proved to be invaluable in giving the young people a different level of respect for correctional professionals. As another midshipman put it: “The prison visit was a great experience. I learned a great deal from the prison officials and was extremely pleased by their generosity. My views were changed for the better on what working at a correctional institution consists of.

Said another: “The visit definitely gave me a different outlook on the prison system. What struck me the most was the devotion of correctional officers and other staff to rehabilitation.”

At the tour’s conclusion, as employees dished out lunch, the Naval Academy students couldn’t stop commenting on their newfound view of incarceration—and of those who work in the prisons, as well as the respect they felt for both employees and the incarcerated.

“This was one of the most shaping trips I have been on,” marveled one. “My view of the correctional system changed greatly, and it is really great to see how much the correctional officers and employees care about helping people. Maryland truly emphasizes the meaning of ‘correctional’ in the prison system, which is promising.”

And that, it seems, speaks to the success of this tour in regards to ‘changing the corrections narrative.’




Mark Vernarelli
Manager of Media Relations
Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
6852 4th St.
Sykesville, MD