Jail training called lax

January 21, 1991|By Ann LoLordo

In Monday's editions, The Sun incorrectly described the Maryland Correctional Training Commission's authority over jails that do not comply with its standards. In fact, if a jail fails to meet state training standards, the commission can seek a court order compelling the institution to comply with its requirements.

The Sun regrets the errors.

The Baltimore City Jail has failed to provide most of its 600 correctional officers with the minimum of job-related training required by state law, according to a state official whose office is investigating a lack of proper training among the city's jail guards.

Don Hopkins, deputy director of the Maryland Correctional Training Commission, said jail officials have told him that they did not provide in-service training to the entire jail staff in 1990.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

They are required to do so under Maryland regulations that set standards for the training of correctional officers in state prisons and local jails.

The jail was supposed to deliver to the commission by the end of this month documents certifying that the correctional staff had received classroom training in the use of weapons, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid, suicide prevention and other issues.

But, Mr. Hopkins said, the jail told him "they didn't have that many in-service [training] scores to submit."

When asked why, Mr. Hopkins said he was told, "They did not do that much in-service" training.

A staffer from Mr. Hopkins' office was at the jail Friday inspecting its training records, and the findings will be reported to the full commission next month, he said.

The Maryland Correctional Training Commission is the state agency that oversees training of correctional officers and parole and probation agents. Under the law, the agency has the authority to close any jail or prison that doesn't meet its standards, although this sanction has never been applied.

The union representing the City Jail guards has been in a dispute with the city since last fall over the the lack of classroom training in the use of firearms and other deficiencies in training.

"We're suppose to receive in-service [training] every year. They haven't done it since 1989," charged Officer Robert T. James, vice president of Local 44 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The correctional officers contend that this lack of training puts both them and the inmates they guard at risk.

It was only last week that the jail said it was ready to begin the required training. Mr. James said he was told by jail officials last week that the training would begin at the end of January. Mr. James said he was pleased but "shocked" by the news.

The jail's admission to Mr. Hopkins and another correctional training commission staffer that it failed to fulfill its training mission conflicts with statements made through a spokeswoman Jail Commissioner Barbara A. Bostick. Previously, Commissioner Bostick, through the spokeswoman, maintained that correctional officers were receiving the required training.

When asked last month about the union's allegations that the jail was failing to provide required training for its guards, L. Tracey Brown, the only person permitted by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to talk to the press about the City Jail, said in-service training there "has been going on all year."

She said that classes for correctional officers have been held consistently and that "all of the training meets the state standards. It is in compliance with all state standards."

However, the standards to which Ms. Brown refers are those of another state commission -- the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards -- concerned with a different aspect of corrections policy.

Paul S. Hastmann, executive director of the standards commission, said his agency's requirements are less stringent than those of the state Correctional Training Commission, whose mandate is to ensure that correctional officers in Maryland prisons and local jails are properly trained.

Despite a series of embarrassing incidents at the problem-plagued, 2,600-inmate jail, Mayor Schmoke said last week that he thought Ms. Bostick and her staff were doing "a very good job."

On Friday, Gov. William Donald Schaefer proposed a state takeover of the jail as a means of helping increase state aid to the city.

VTC The lack of classroom training last year prompted the union representing City Jail correctional officers to file two grievances over the training issue in October.

One key issue in dispute was the complaint by the union that the jail was sending correctional officers to the firearms range without suitable classroom training.

Commissioner Bostick denied the union's charge through Ms. Brown. "The jail's position is it provides four hours of [in-service] classroom training" on firearms use, she said.

The union was just as adamant in its response.

"They have yet to start training," said Mr. James, the union official.

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