The people incarcerated at the St. Mary’s County Detention and Rehabilitation Center are typically not held there for longer than 18 months, meaning they will return to the community sooner rather than later.
As the Offender Re-Entry Case Manager for the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division, Sean Dennis works to ensure that each inmate returning to the community has the tools and opportunities they need to get back on their feet to support themselves and their families.
Dennis joined the Sheriff’s Office in August 2020 after already serving in a long career in law enforcement in Washington, DC.
As the full-time Offender Re-Entry Case Manager, “we set them up for success, anything they need to transition back,” Dennis said.
Some inmates don’t have identification or a birth certificate – basic things needed for employment. Some need housing. Some need in-patient treatment for addiction. Many need employment, health insurance, or food assistance.
“You name it; we do it all,” Dennis said. “We call our office a one-stop shop,” in the facility’s Classification and Offender Re-Entry Office.
He works across a spectrum of local, state, and federal agencies to gather the resources an individual needs for successful reintegration back into society. Each inmate has a specific and individualized re-entry plan.
Dennis also works to provide services to the inmates’ children while the parent is incarcerated.
“When an individual gets incarcerated, life goes on. We’re kind of like the connection to the outside world for the men and women here,” Dennis said.
The detention and rehabilitation center, constructed in 1989, has a capacity for 230 beds, which was recently expanded with the addition of a 64-bed women’s wing and other ongoing expansion and ongoing renovations.
“I thoroughly enjoy what I do here,” Dennis said. “I enjoy the people I work with. It’s rewarding. For 28 years, I was locking people up. God has a funny sense of humor. Now I’m helping people get out,” he said.
Dennis is now in his 32nd year working in public safety and law enforcement. In 1991, he went to work for the Washington DC Department of Corrections and then joined the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department in 1994, where he worked for 25 years, one month and ten days.
As the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office’s first full-time offender re-entry case manager, “I think we’re making an impact,” Dennis said. Once an inmate is released, Dennis continues to do follow-up work with that person.
Some try to take advantage of the programs offered, but Dennis works to remove any excuses that could impede successful re-entry.
He asks the inmate, “What is the next step? What are you going to do?” Some inmates are seeking to get their children back. Some need a driver’s license. “This is your life. Don’t wait to go to jail to get your life together,” Dennis advises them.
“People’s lives are being positively impacted,” he said. “They’re being given options on how to connect to services, but it’s only for individuals who take the opportunity to take advantage,” he said.
The people held at the detention center are “going to come back out. It’s about rehabilitation now. They are your neighbors. They are your friends. You’ll see them at the store,” Dennis said.
“We are blessed beyond measure to work with Mr. Dennis,” Warden Mary Ann Thompson said. “Not only does he work with incarcerated individuals, but Mr. Dennis is also a mentor to all of us who have the great fortune of working with him,” she said.