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December 27, 1985 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-27

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, December 27, 1985


Special to The Jewish News

She walks with rapists, murder-
ers, and armed robbers. She debates
with Ted Koppel of Nightline and Ed
Bradley of Sixty Minutes. She con-
fronts situations usually reserved for
sociology textbooks. She's one tough
Meet Norma Gluckstern. At 56,
this short, Jewish woman is a prison
warden in an all male, maximum se-
curity prison.
Gluckstern, a former Detroiter,
returned to the area recently to ad-
dress a Jewish Welfare Federation
meeting of business and professional
women. And the Detroit career
women were intrigued with the war-
den, remaining long after her lecture
to question her about her work.
Gluckstern's "office" is called
Patuxent. The state prison in Jes-
sup, Md., 14 miles south of Balti-
more, is currently home to nearly
800 criminals — even though it was
designed to hold only 610 prisoners
when it was built 30 years ago.
There are six buildings protected by
an equal number of guard towers. A
double fence surrounds the complex
Inside the complex, buzzers
sound, keys jangle, doors clang and
electronic devices beep. "It looks just
like a maximum security prison,"
Gluckstern says.
She's chatty, open, and direct: It
only takes about five minutes to find
out she once was a housewife, mar-
ried to the chancellor of the Univer-
sity of Maryland, living in academia.
Today she has a doctorate in coun-
seling psychology, lives near
Chesapeake Bay, and is married to
colleague Ralph Packard, a warden
at the Maryland House of Correc-
To fathom the complexity of her
job and the intelligence of this
woman is to know that she's the di-
rector of an institution with 399 em-
ployees and a budget of $15 million.

More profoundly, she has the power
to alter people's lives forever, with
her vote on the prison parole board.
Patuxent, according to Gluckst-
ern, was founded as a model treat-
ment center using psychiatric prin-
ciples for criminal rehabilitation.
The then-unique prison included an
independent parole board composed
of psychiatrists, psychologists and
sociologists and incorporated the
"indeterminate sentence" — only the
board could release a prisoner, even
if that meant a jail term that ran
longer than the original sentence.
In theory, these revolutionary
methods were supposed to lead to
true rehabilitation. But they just
weren't workable inside the prison
walls, Gluckstern explains. Prisoners
felt helplessly trapped by the system
and would languish at the lowest
level of the "tier system" for years.
In 1977, the indeterminate sen-
tence was repealed and Patuxent
slowly began shedding its negative
image. Gluckstern has been a
pivotal figure in reforming the in-
stitution's policies since she was
named warden in 1979.
Under her supervision, all pro-
cedures were formally documented.
She began a community outreach
program, where staff members gave
lectures and tours educating the
community about the institution. In
April, 1984, Patuxent created the
Office of Research and Computer
Development, enabling the institu-
tion to collect data for management
and research.
Gluckstern has also mandated
about $7 million in renovations, in-
cluding building and security im-
Gluckstern's administrative ta-
lents have not gone unnoticed. She
was awarded Maryland's Woman
Administrator of the Year in State
Service for 1983-1984. Gluckstern
admits this strength: "I have so

many aspects I'm responsible for
that I'm able to juggle all of these
different responsibilities with a fair
amount of ease ... And I have no
problem making decisions."
It would appear that Gluckst-
ern's policies are paying off.
At Patuxent, the recidivism (re-
turn) runs between 15-20 percent,
the warden says, as opposed to the
national rate of about 60 percent.
Gluckstern describes the parole sys-
tem as strict. We do not wait until
we think they might murder again.
If they don't show up at parole clinic
one or two times, we pull them in —
before they commit a crime."
Sitting on the parole board is
perhaps the hardest element of
Gluckstern's job. When I have a
vote to let someone out of the in-
stitution who has either raped or
murdered, the responsibility is
In June 1987, Patuxent is slated
to become the first male maximum
security prison to house and inte-
grate women. Women will live in
separate quarters, but will be in-
volved in all programs.
So how did a nice Jewish woman
end up at a place like Patuxent?
Gluckstern will tell you it was just
luck, "being in the right place at the
right time." But the real answer can
be found by tracing her past, a
colorful journey through the worlds
of middle-class housewife, academia
and the violent student protests of
the 1960s.
Norma Block Gluckstern was
born in Massachusetts but spent her
first ten years growing up in Detroit
on Fullerton Avenue. When her
father's business as a candy dis-
tributor failed, the family, which
also included a son, moved back to
Boston. Her father then made plas-
ter of Paris animals and dolls for
carnivals, while her mother was a

Continued on. Page 52


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