Terry Kokolis, new Director of the Talbot County Department of Corrections, had a schedule on this particular day which included seeing that the lobby walls were painted a brighter more inviting color, speaking to the Talbot County Council in the evening about his vision for the department, after which he would visit the night shift staff at his facility to get the tone of the jail after hours. His passion for his work is evident when you talk with him.
Kokolis says, “I am in Talbot County to impact the day-to-day operations of the department. I am proud when I can make a difference on both sides – empowering and training the 50 staff members to feel they are a significant part of the organization and creating a blend of programming which benefits the 70 or so inmates.”
He adds, “People support what they build, so I will work with staff to think out of the box and I think they will enjoy doing that.”
Kokolis replaces Director Doug Devenyns who retired in June 2019 after 29 years in the correctional services field. He brings years of corrections experience, serving most recently as Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Department of Detention Facilities. In that position he was responsible for the operations of the Jennifer Road Detention Center, a maximum security 750-bed intake facility hosting the Detention Division and Pretrial Services. Concurrently, he was also responsible for the Ordnance Road Correctional Center, a medium security 650-bed sentenced facility.
His career in corrections began after he was discharged from the military. He attended American University on the GI Bill where he completed a Bachelor of Science Degree in Administration of Justice. He comments about what attracted him to the field, “There were influential people in the criminal justice field. American University was one of the schools given grant money to improve programs affecting law enforcement and public safety during this time.”
He began his career as a correctional officer in Montgomery County, which was one of the counties working with the Vera Institute of Justice, an organization working with government and civil leaders to improve justice systems across the country, and the National Institute of Corrections Resource Center, which provided innovative correctional services and training. He states, “Everything exciting in corrections was happening in Montgomery County. I was able to be a part of implementing unique and new strategies in my early career and it captivated me.”
He quips, “No one grows up wanting to work in a jail. It’s being able to make a difference in people’s lives in this profession which has kept me in it all these years. As I moved up the ranks, I could control outcomes and that was very satisfying.”
Kokolis adds, “Doug Devenyns did a great job here and was an active administrator. I want to continue Doug’s programs, building upon the good relationships he established with the mental health agencies and medical providers, public partners, law enforcement, and the Circuit Court and District Court judges. I will continue those relationships forward.”
Some of the new initiatives Kokolis hopes to implement include enhancing and improving the technology for communication in the department, expanding staff development training, and recognizing employees’ accomplishments. He states, “We need to create staff enhancements to retain employees who will be with us for their careers.”
For the inmate population, Kokolis hopes to strategize and develop offerings which can best address an inmate’s re-entry in the community. This includes expanding the pre-trial release and diversion program, working with Parole and Probation to meet with clients before they are released to make an earlier contact in the probation process. He would like to expand the Medically- Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program, consolidating offerings to measure the program’s effectiveness. He also hopes to continue the “Inside Out Dad Program” and start an “Inside Out Women’s Program.”
He adds, “This is what I am comfortable doing. How you treat inmates reflects the civility of the population.”
Kokolis also has a history of advocacy for correctional systems, having served on numerous boards and commissions, as well as providing expert testimony to the state legislature. He was appointed by Governor Hogan to the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board and the Police and Correctional Training Commission representing Maryland’s 23 county jails. He also served on the Commission to Reform Maryland’s Pretrial System representing Maryland Association of Counties.
Corey W. Pack, President, Talbot County Council, adds, “Mr. Kokolis has the proven leadership skills and knowledge to successfully lead the Department of Corrections and continue with the expansion of cognitive programs offered to the inmate population.”