Baltimore's oldest black cemetery finally restored, with help of inmates
Jul 05, 2012
....After decades of neglect, interrupted occasionally by well-meaning but ultimately fruitless cleanup efforts, the cemetery in South Baltimore was officially rededicated Monday, due in large part to the labors of an unlikely group: state prison inmates.
As part of a program to put those serving time to work on meaningful projects, more than 40 prisoners have worked on the four-year effort to transform the cemetery's 34 acres.
"There's 55,000 graves here," said Gary Maynard, the secretary for the state's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, looking out over Mount Auburn's bright green fields. "That's 55,000 families. There are a lot of people connected to this cemetery, and now they're out here looking for graves of family they couldn't find in the past."
Since Maynard took over the department in 2007, inmates have planted 50 million oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, built a retaining wall along the C&O Canal, and restored the woods north and west of the Antietam Battlefield, among other projects.
It's a far cry from picking up trash on the side of the road. Maynard calls the efforts "restorative justice." He has sought to double the number of inmates working on such projects.