Md. prison official retires amid union calls for his removal

Jon Galley, 69, served more than four decades in corrections

By Kevin Rector
The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — A top state prison official has announced his retirement amid calls that he step down in light of a string of inmate-on-officer attacks this summer.

Jon Galley, 69, served more than four decades in corrections, mostly in the state system and most recently as executive director of the state prison system's northern region. The region oversees North Branch Correctional Institution in Western Maryland, where more than a dozen officers have been injured in altercations with inmates since the end of June.

Earlier this month, AFSCME Maryland, the union that represents corrections officers at North Branch, called for Galley to resign, saying he and other officials had failed to maintain safety at the facility. Galley declined to comment at the time, and could not be immediately reached regarding his retirement.

The state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services issued a news release Friday afternoon announcing Galley's retirement. It did not give a specific reason for his departure, but credited Galley in part with reducing violence against officers in the system in recent years.

"I still like doing what I do," Galley was quoted as saying in the release. "But now it's time to step back."

Union officials met the news by calling the retirement a "resignation" and a step in the right direction for a department that has been beset by scandal in recent months, including the uncovering of a drug-smuggling and racketeering enterprise allegedly being operated by inmates and corrections officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

"Many front line officers felt strongly that managers like Jon Galley tied the hands of wardens, not allowing them to run facilities like NBCI like the maximum security prisons they are," said Patrick Moran, AFSCME Maryland president, in a statement. "This is a good first step to begin to restore the confidence of officers in management's ability and willingness to proactively protect their safety in the wake of an unprecedented spike of assaults against officers."

One of the assaults in question involved an officer at North Branch being stabbed multiple times in the head and neck earlier this month. An inmate had previously threatened that officer in a letter to prison officials, but officials never warned the officer of the threat prior to his being stabbed — a breach in procedure that corrections officials are currently investigating.

The union has also called for the resignations of J. Michael Stouffer, the deputy secretary of operations; and Rodrick R. Sowers, director of corrections in the northern region. Neither have responded to requests for comment on the union's demands.

Gary D. Maynard, the state's corrections secretary, said in a statement that Galley has "brought significant and positive change" to the state's prison system.

"He is an asset to our Department, but I wish him the best in retirement," Maynard said.

Galley's retirement is official Nov. 1. Officials have not acknowledged any link between his retirement and the union's calls for his resignation.

According to the department, Galley began his corrections career in the mid-1960s "by accident, when a medical condition prevented him from entering military flight school."

He began as a teacher at the then new Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, where he became warden in 1979. He would eventually serve as warden at four separate facilities and was appointed Commissioner of Correction in 1981, serving three years.

Galley served six years running corrections systems in Montgomery and Frederick counties before returning to the state as assistant commissioner for the department's western region, the position he held immediately prior to his last post in the northern region.

The department credited Galley with helping to bring the first female officers into the corrections system in the 1970s, and with helping to establish national accreditation standards for prisons.

Maryland is currently working to have all of its prisons accredited.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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