Pre-release chief fired, 7 punished for Oct. escapes

November 03, 1990|By William F. Zorzi Jr.

An investigation into the escape of five inmates from the Baltimore Pre-release Unit 2 1/2 weeks ago has resulted in the firing of the head of the facility, the suspension without pay of six correctional employees and the demotion of a correctional officer, a spokesman confirmed yesterday.

George W. Redd Jr., manager of the Baltimore Pre-release Unit, was fired Monday, effective Nov. 12, as part of the investigation into the walk-off of five inmates from the Greenmount Avenue unit Oct. 16, said Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, spokesman for the Division of Correction.

Elmanus Herndon, the acting correction commissioner who retired yesterday, took the personnel action Monday, Sergeant Shipley said.

In addition, the assistant warden of the pre-release unit, Leslie Dorsey, one-time warden of the Maryland Penitentiary, retired Oct. 25. Sergeant Shipley could not say whether Mr. Dorsey's retirement was related to the escapes.

"The investigation is continuing, and we do expect additional personnel action to be taken," Sergeant Shipley said.

Thomas R. "Randy" Corcoran, warden of the Maryland Correctional Pre-release System, which is made up of 13 pre-release units and centers and has headquarters in Jessup, has temporarily taken over the Baltimore Pre-release Unit, which houses 213 inmates considered the lowest risk in the system, Sergeant Shipley said.

One corrections official described the widespread personnel actions yesterday as "a massacre."

The five inmates, all of whom are back in custody, had less than a year to serve on sentences for crimes ranging from theft to attempted murder. Three of them turned themselves in the day of the escape, after attempting to return to the institution, only to find that a window they intended to use was locked. The two others were arrested within a day.

The inmates apparently had planned to return to the center after visiting girlfriends, and there are indications that the Oct. 16 incident was not the first time inmates have left the facility for such visits, officials said.

The incident was the most recent in a series of embarrassing and, in some cases, tragic blunders by the Division of Correction since late summer.

The most notable cases were the mistaken early releases of two inmates, rapist and robber John F. Thanos and flimflam artist and thief Betty V. Rorie. Thanos was charged with killing three teen-agers after his release, and Rorie was charged with murdering a man and attempting to kill an elderly woman in Baltimore.

The six suspended employees have been furloughed without pay for periods ranging from five to 30 days, Sergeant Shipley said.

He would not disclose whether they were correctional officers, citing an interpretation of state law that protects confidentiality in personnel matters. Correction officials who requested anonymity confirmed that all six were correctional officers.

Sergeant Shipley also would not say what rank was held by the officer who was demoted one rank, although correctional officials said the officer was a captain, demoted to lieutenant.

The actions have set off a furor among correctional officers and their union officials, who have asked for a meeting next week with the new acting correction commissioner, Richard A. Lanham Sr.

"We're very upset that this amount of line staff has been disciplined in the manner that they have, especially considering that several of the persons still do not know what they have done wrong," said Ricardo R. Silva, labor relations representative for the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which represents the officers.

"With this amount of officers being disciplined, it looks like another situation of DOC officials using line staff as scapegoats, considering the serious lack of adequate staff at that facility," he said. "I haven't seen these types of suspensions in years."

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