Maryland DOC settles ADA claims of Blind Inmates Represented by Chestertown Law Firm

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Nine current and former Maryland prison inmates have settled their discrimination lawsuit, Brown v. Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, for $1.4 million in damages and attorneys’ fees. The Maryland Board of Public Works has just approved the settlement payment. Under the settlement, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) will modify prison procedures and provide assistive technology for the blind to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other applicable laws.

The lawsuit, led by Steve Meehan and the Prisoner Rights Information System of Maryland (PRISM) located Chestertown and Brown, Goldstein & Levy of Baltimore, with the assistance of the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind and the Prisoner Rights Information System of Maryland (PRISM), alleged that DPSCS denied the blind inmates access to prison jobs, kept them in prison longer, denied them access to prison programs and information, and put them in danger because of their disabilities. Specifically, because they were blind, the inmates were housed at a medium-security prison, even when they were eligible for lower security or for programs at the state’s 26 other facilities. Blind inmates were also excluded from the prison work programs that allow prisoners to learn job skills and earn higher wages and credits off their sentences.

The suit further alleged that the blind prisoners did not have equal access to prison services and privileges available to other inmates because the prison communicates with inmates primarily in print, but made no accommodations for inmates who could not see. The ADA, enacted in 1990, prohibits discrimination against inmates with vision disabilities and requires state agencies, including prisons, to ensure “equally effective communication” with blind and low-vision inmates. The plaintiffs in the case alleged that the prison’s discrimination denied them the ability to communicate and endangered their safety. They had to rely on other inmates to help them navigate prison facilities, read their mail (including attorney-client communications), read the rules in the inmate handbook, use the commissary and prison library, file grievances and requests for medical attention, and more. Not surprisingly, this subjected them to mistreatment by other inmates, who took advantage of the blind prisoners’ need for help by extorting money, commissary items, and even sex.

Some of the changes that DPSCS will make under the settlement agreement include:

Setting up computers with text-to-speech screen reader software, document scanners, and other assistive technology in the prison library, classrooms, and other locations to allow blind prisoners to conduct research and read and prepare documents independently;
Ensuring that blind inmates have access to qualified human readers and scribes who meet certain security and disciplinary criteria; and
Providing training for blind inmates in skills that will allow them greater independence.

“These blind inmates do not seek special treatment,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “They seek only equal and independent access to the same facilities, services, and privileges that are available to other inmates. Lack of that access has not only denied them their rights but led to a nightmare of extortion, threats, and violence. We are happy the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has agreed to make changes and hope that corrections officials throughout the nation take note. The National Federation of the Blind will continue to fight for the rights of our blind brothers and sisters, including those behind bars.”

Background: A National Problem

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 7 percent of state and federal prisoners have vision disabilities, significantly higher than the 2 percent of people not in prison. As people age in prison, that number increases to 15 percent. According to the report “Making Hard Time Harder” by the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities Project at Disability Rights Washington, “While prison is hard for everyone, incarceration is even more challenging for inmates with disabilities. Research shows that inmates with disabilities are sentenced to an average of fifteen more months in prison as compared to other inmates with similar criminal convictions. The time they serve is also harder, with more sanctions imposed and less access to positive programming than other inmates.”

Abused, Depressed, and “Frightened All the Time”

Gregory Hammond, one of the plaintiffs, lost his sight in prison due to multiple sclerosis. He says of his experiences: “I wanted to work in one of the vocational shops at the prison to reduce my sentence and learn some skills for when I got out, but they said blind people weren’t allowed to work in the shops. They assigned me an inmate walker to guide me around instead of letting me use a white cane or teaching me how to navigate myself. Then they made me share a cell with him and he stole from me because I was blind and couldn’t see my things. He assaulted me because I bumped into his TV, and I couldn’t defend myself. And I had to depend on him for everything – going out of my cell, reading mail or rules, writing medical slips. I even had to pay him to write the medical slip to get help for the injuries he gave me. But they still would not give me a single cell. Later, when my MS acted up, no one would write a medical slip for me, so I was paralyzed in my bed overnight. Inmates I had to pay to read my mail for me even went after my family. One threatened to hook up with my mother because, while he was reading my mail, he saw a picture of her. Another wrote obscene letters to my little sister because he got her picture and address from reading my mail. I couldn’t ask them to write grievances about themselves, even if I could have afforded to, and the computers in the library weren’t accessible for the blind, so I couldn’t do anything. I was mentally abused and powerless, and it changed me. It made me depressed. I was scared and frightened all the time. And it’s hard to cope when you are a grown man and you have to depend on someone else, another inmate, to help you, and he’s just taking advantage of you.”

 

98 Cannon Riverside Grille Opens

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Mayor Chris Cerino wields the scissors for the grand opening of the 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille, Saturday, as owner Joe Elliott (in sunglasses), family, and staff look on.  –  Photo by Jane Jewell

Appropriately, a cannon blast just after 11:00 am last Saturday, May 11, was the signal for Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino to cut the ribbon for the opening of 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille, the newly-renovated restaurant at the town’s marina. Formerly the Fish Whistle, and before that the Old Wharf, the restaurant offers Chestertown’s only waterfront dining experience.  The restaurant is located right on the Chester River at –no surprise– number 98 Cannon St.

Owner Joe Elliott, Elliott’s wife Kristin and their children, and the staff of the refurbished restaurant stood behind Cerino for the symbolic opening. Elliott, in brief remarks, thanked the town of Chestertown for its support. He said he moved his family here in 2012 and was inspired to invest in the restaurant after falling in love with the town. Elliott also thanked Matt Weir, who owns the physical property on which the restaurant sits, and Albert Nickerson for completing the renovations on the building in time for the opening.

After the ribbon-cutting, Elliott invited everyone to come on in! 98 Cannon, he said, is now open for business for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week.

The outside deck at 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Inside the building, the changes were immediately apparent. The wall that formerly separated the bar from the dining area has been removed, leaving a larger, more spacious interior – and a two-sided bar. There are now booths on the inside wall of the main dining area, and a wide door opening onto the deck – which is being expanded along the downriver side of the building. And the entrance to the kitchen has been moved closer to the front desk.

A row of booths now lines the inside wall. – Photo by Jane Jewell

The menu has also received an update. A number of old favorites remain, including burgers and crab cakes, while new additions include brick oven pizzas, bistro steak frite, and Langenfelder Farm pork chops.  The kitchen, according to their FaceBook page, is headed by chef Chris Golder who has over 40 years experience creating fine dining.  There is an emphasis on casual yet upscale cuisine including oysters, Buffalo shrimp and even fish tacos featuring fresh, local, Chesapeake seafood and various farm to table favorites.

On Saturday, among the first customers was a family celebrating its senior member’s 100th birthday!  On Sunday there was a sumptuous and well-attended Mothers’ Day Brunch.  The menu also includes brunches for Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Future plans also include Kayak and paddle board rentals.

The restaurant’s hours are 11 a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week.  The phone for reservations is 443-282-0055.  The FaceBook page is here.  A webpage is still under construction but already has some good information.  The restaurant is currently hiring more staff.  Anyone interested in a position may send info to jobs@98cannon.com.

Lamotte Company Honored By World Trade Center Institute

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At its 23rd Maryland International Business Leadership Awards reception, the World Trade Center Institute (WTCI), Governor Larry Hogan, and the Maryland Department of Commerce joined hundreds of business leaders from around the state to acknowledge and celebrate the international reach and community involvement of Maryland’s top global companies. https://www.wtci.org/leadershipawards/

At this year’s reception, LaMotte Company was recognized by WTCI and the Maryland Dept. of Commerce with a 2019 Maryland International Business Award.

“It was a very special evening and such an honor to be selected as one of the 7 Maryland companies, out of 70 nominated this year. To be standing on stage accepting the award from Governor Larry Hogan—with other winning companies like Under Armour and Dap—elevated my sense of pride for all that everyone at LaMotte Company does every day to make our company a success in so many ways.” —David LaMotte, President, LaMotte Company

Each year, the Maryland International Business Leadership Awards celebrate the state’s global success through the recognition of a handful of recipients who exemplify international business growth, growth in the State of Maryland through workforce development and/or revenue growth, and support efforts to give back to the local community.

The evening began with a chance to meet, network and learn from inspirational Maryland business leaders, followed by opening remarks from the World Trade Center Institute CEO and a seated dinner during which guests learned more about LaMotte Company and the other award winners that have led their firms to success, as well as show support for Maryland’s increasing global footprint. During the event, Gov. Hogan presented the 2019 Governor’s Award to Arne Sorenson, president & CEO of Marriott International, Inc.

“This year’s award recipients represent the state on a global level, and we couldn’t be prouder,” said WTCI CEO Deborah Kielty.

This year’s event took place on April 11, 2019 at the American Visionary Art Museum. The featured speaker was Samuel Hoi, president of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Sponsors of the event included T. Rowe Price, CallisonRTKL, Jhpiego, and Maryland Institute College of Art.

After the First Decade: Piazza’s Emily Chandler Looks Back and Forward

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As the Spy celebrates its own tenth year of operation, it dawned on us that there were quite a number of businesses on the Mid-Shore that started at the same time the Spy began publishing.  Ranging from bakeries to contractors, dozens of small businesses opened their doors amid a significant economic recession, relying on instinct and self-confidence that their services would be sought after, no matter the current business climate.

With that in mind, the Spy has decided to interview many of these brave entrepreneurs over the next year for them to reflect on their experiences.

We start with Emily Chandler, the owner of the now extremely popular Piazza Italian Market, in Easton.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Piazza please go here.

 

The Power of Being Agile: Qlarant Embraces the Agile Manifesto

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There’s a good chance that most people, even those running major businesses on the Mid-Shore, have never heard of the Agile Manifesto nor its twelve principles of project management but there is an equally good chance they will soon.

This project planning strategy, which was created in 1983 by software developers in a remote ski lodge over a long weekend, has been the go-to system for complex product development but rarely used beyond its intended silo. In most cases, upper management was pleased to get their products to market but didn’t pay too much attention to what system was used to create those products.

But in the last decade, all of that has changed dramatically. Hundreds of companies have now adopted this unique methodology and applied it to other functions like marketing, business administration, human resources, employee education, and countless other areas of a business.

The Agile approach has become so effective that companies are not only using it but in some cases will not even be able to bid on projects unless they are officially certified as an Agile-based business.

Easton-based Qlarant had been one of those companies who adopted the Agile principles early on in the development of their sophisticated software to uncover health insurance fraud and waste. So impressed with those results, management took the Agile model and has now used it in almost every part of the company’s mission. But more recently, the company took it to another level; they applied for and received approval to train and implement these techniques with their clients.

The reason is quite simple; the Agile method works exceptionally well. While a few large corporations have had some trouble in developing the cultural shift needed to successfully deploy the twelve principles, the vast majority of companies using Agile have shown remarkable success.

In fact, the enthusiasm for this simple approach has been so great that advocates demand that nonprofit organizations and schools to integrate its use while others have promoted its use to manage their family life

Needless to say, the Spy was intrigued by this new development and what it may mean for Qlarant  to be one of the first in the country to offer this as an important part of their tool chest. We sat down with Qlarant’s Ellen Evans and Andrew Welsh a few weeks ago to learn more. 

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Qlarant please go here.

Bartlett, Griffin & Vermilye Joins Fleetwood Insurance

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Pictured from left to right: Scott Bramble, Bill Griffin, Josh Johnson and Creg Fleetwood

Bartlett, Griffin & Vermilye, one of Talbot County’s oldest and best-established insurance agencies, has joined forces with Fleetwood Insurance Group, another prominent Eastern Shore agency based in Chestertown.

Effective January 2, 2019, the two Mid-Shore insurance agencies are uniting their resources to offer expanded services along with added convenience. According to Creg Fleetwood, president of Fleetwood Insurance Group, customers of both agencies will benefit from this in several important ways.

“This partnership of equals will allow us to offer our customers expanded services from more insurance carriers, along with accessibility to industry leaders,” Fleetwood states. “We’re also planning to introduce improved technology, including mobile apps and online account access.”

By acquiring BG&V, Fleetwood Insurance gains a desired presence in the Talbot market. Established in 1967, over the past half-century Bartlett Griffin & Vermilye has built a strong reputation for outstanding customer service and support. Fleetwood Insurance Group (formerly known as FAM&M), has a heritage of providing insurance services to the Eastern Shore region since 1946, going back more than 70 years. According to Fleetwood, those well-established relationships will continue, with services being provided by the same friendly and professional team members at both entities many of whom have 25 years or more of insurance industry experience in supporting their local customers.

Bill Griffin of Bartlett, Griffin & Vermilye commented, “Bartlett, Griffin & Vermilye will continue to provide the level of service our clients are accustomed to and remain locally owned and operated”.

In addition, as part of the new partnership, Spencer McAllister, Fleetwood’s agent in Easton, will join the staff at the Bartlett, Griffin & Vermilye office.

For more information about the new partnership and the expanded services being offered by Bartlett, Griffin & Vermilye, please call 410-822-2400.

Chesapeake Bank Contributes to Chestertown Marina Project

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On early January, 2019, Glenn Wilson, President and CEO of Chesapeake Bank and Trust Company, presented a donation of $5,000 to Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino in support of the Chestertown Marina Revitalization Project.

Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino (left) and Zoning Administrator Kees de Mooy (right) accept Chesapeake Bank and Trust Company’s donation from President & CEO Glenn Wilson (center)Since it purchased the marina property in 2012, the Town of Chestertown has raised over 5.7 million dollars from a wide variety of state, federal, and private sources. During the second half of 2018, the Town of Chestertown issued a request for donations from members of the community to help complete renovations at the Marina. “The Town and I are grateful for Chesapeake Bank’s generosity and example in helping us to finish this terrific project for Chestertown,” said Mayor Chris Cerino.

It is anticipated that Chestertown Marina will generate a direct economic impact of 1.7 – 2.2 million dollars annually while preserving an important part of the Town’s history, culture, and heritage. “Chesapeake Bank is very proud to support the Town’s efforts to improve Chestertown’s economic vitality, livability and attractiveness, as this marina project certainly will,” said Wilson.

Chesapeake Bank and Trust is a full-service community bank founded in 1986, locally-owned and directed by area business and community leaders. The Bank is committed to providing area residents and business owners a full suite of financial products and an unparalleled level of individual service. For more information, visit us at www.chesapeaketrust.com or call 410-778-1600.

Cambio Wi-Fi Leaving Kent County

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In a message to its customers dated Jan. 21, internet service provider Cambio Wi-fi said it will be moving its services out of Kent County. The message, signed by Steven J. Kirby Jr., president and founder of the company, says the move takes effect immediately.

On its website, Cambio describes itself as the fastest, most reliable Advanced LTE Pro wireless broadband internet service on the Delmarva Peninsula utilizing high-speed fiber optics and state-of-the-art equipment.” The website states that Cambio had 1,500 customers in Kent County, with another 2,975 in Queen Anne’s and Caroline, and 263 listed as “pending.” According to Kirby’s message, only the Kent County customers will be affected by the move.

The message explains the decision to terminate service in Kent as follows: “We started experiencing issues with our backhaul (fiber) provider Atlantic Broadband who made changes to their network that would not work with the equipment we have on the towers. We tried to work with them, but they won’t change the network back to the original configuration so we can continue business. We signed contracts with them because they were the only fiber provider in the area at the time. If Kent County Fiber Optic Systems were in place in the beginning, we never would have had these issues and would have provided even better service than we did in the beginning.”

The message goes on to say that Cambio customers will not be billed for February services. It asks customers who still owe money through January to pay their bills because “we are not going out of business, we are operating in other Markets on Delmarva and other parts on the county where we have control over our own network and fiber.” It also notifies customers that Cambio will be scheduling removal of company equipment installed on their houses over the next week or two. Customers will be billed $500 if the equipment is not returned, the message said.

Cambio customers are advised to contact the company’s partners Bridgemaxx (844-303-5900) or Tidewater Wi-Fi (443-282-1176) for continued internet service. For fiber service, customers are asked to contact ThinkBig Networks (888-319-1372). Kirby’s message states that business accounts will be given priority.

Customers who need to get in touch with Cambio should email support@cambiowifi.com for support and equipment return or accounting@cambiowifi.com for account questions. Cambio’s Maryland office is now in Denton. The phone for the Denton office is listed as 410-779-9876. The company also maintains an office in New York City.

Cambio’s departure from Kent comes as a surprise. As recently as Nov. 6 last year, Cambio announced that it was partnering with Kent County Fiber Optic Systems to increase its capacity to provide internet services in Kent County. In 2015, Cambio reached an agreement with Kent County to use water towers to broadcast its wi-fi signal to homes and businesses at distances of 5 to 7 miles, with speeds up to 90 megabytes per second. Cambio’s presence in Kent was also notable for the company’s support of the three then-incumbent county commissioners in the 2018 election, announced on several billboards around the county. Of the three, only Ron Fithian won re-election.

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Sumner Hall: Last Two Weeks for Exhibit of Black Civil War Soldiers’ Portraits

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Portraits of 17 men from the 25th US Colored Troops – portraits with accompanying book by Shayne Davidson

Sumner Hall has had the privilege of hosting a special exhibition of portraits of Black Civil War soldiers.  The portraits, all by artist Shayne Davidson, show seventeen members of the 25th US Colored Troops.  Drawn from tiny “gem”  (locket-sized)  photographs, the portraits gleam with life and vitality–so life-like that you can easily imagine these soldiers stepping down out of their frames.

The pictures will be on display until at least the end of November.  That means there are just two more weekends that you can be sure of getting to see them.  Sumner Hall is open every Saturday from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm.  You can also contact the museum to arrange a visit.  You can even take a chance of just dropping by.  If someone is there working on one of the many projects, they can often let visitors in for a little while. To arrange a guided tour, please contact Sumner Hall by phone at 443.282.0023 or by email at info@sumnerhall.org.  The museum is located at 206 S. Queen St. in Chestertown, MD.

Davidson is a professional artist, medical illustrator, and genealogist.  in 2012, she was shown a tiny album of Black soldiers from the Civil War.

The tiny originals were locket-sized, not even 2 inches tall.

According to Shayne’s artist’s statement, on Sumner Hall’s website, “after she examined the locket-sized photographs of these American heroes, she felt compelled to learn more about the individuals featured in the collection. Captain William A. Prickitt, the white commander of the 25th United States Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops, Company G, had noted the names of the men and Davidson used this information to study military and census records, birth, death and marriage licenses, as well as news articles to compose family trees. By the time she had immersed herself in their individual stories, she wanted to share them with others. In her words, it was a privilege to bring this exhibition to life and she hopes that “the Civil War Soldiers” Project conveys part of the story of a group of men who bravely participated in a pivotal event in our nation’s history.”

The Tin Type album held 18 photos of 17 men. It had been saved for over 150 by the Captain Prickett’s family.

The American Civil War was one of the first conflicts that was extensively photographed.  Yet among the thousands of photos of battles, soldiers, military scenes and equipment, there were very few photos of Black soldiers.  This photo album has turned out to be a veritable treasure-trove for Civil War historians.

Private James Tall – 1845-1932 (aged 87) from Tennessee

Private James Henry Hovington (1829-1907) from Kent County, Delaware

Captain Prickett and his wife. Prickett was the white officer in charge of the 25th Colored Troops, Co. G. During the Civil War, all the Colored Troops had white commanding officers though there were lower-rank black officers.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see the  Seventeen Men of 25th United States Colored Troops while the exhibit is still here in Chestertown at Sumner Hall.  The original, two-inch high tin-type album with the photos has been donated to the Museum of African American History in Washington, DC.  But this is the only place that you can really see the men come alive in the color -pencil renditions by Shayne Davidson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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