Clifton Wilson, an inmate at the state's Eastern Pre-Release Unit, spent last week in the great outdoors, relocating oysters from cages on private piers near Thomas Point on the Chesapeake Bay to a sanctuary in nearby Glebe Bay.
To the North East resident, it was a throwback to growing up near waters teeming with wildlife.
For state officials eager to help rebuild the oyster population, Wilson's work was an example of getting people involved in the Marylanders Grow Oysters program. Launched by Gov. Martin O'Malley in 2008, the program allows people from all walks of life to nurture oysters from infancy and then set them in waters closed to harvesting.
More than 1,000 waterfront property owners grow oysters in cages suspended from their piers and immersed in shallow waters. The cages are also made by inmates, and on Thursday, a few from the Eastern Pre-Release Unit took part in pulling dozens of the mud-covered cages from the waters.
"I was born on the water. My grandfather's house is like a museum down in North East. When I was a kid, there was everything out on the water — oysters, clams and fish," said Wilson, 59, on Thursday. "Now it's getting really bad, depleted.