Jessup inmates balk at entering hot cells MCI still in lockdown

May 29, 1991|By Thom Loverro | Thom Loverro,Sun Staff Correspondent Sandy Banisky of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

HAGERSTOWN D — HAGERSTOWN -- The Maryland Correctional Institution remained frozen in lockdown status yesterday after Saturday's riot, but a group of inmates at another state prison refused to return to their cells, provoking a near-confrontation.

About 50 inmates at the Brockbridge Correctional Facility, a minimum-security pre-release center in Jessup, refused to re-enter their cells for about 90 minutes early yesterday morning. Correctional officers from other shifts and from the nearby House of Correction were called in to handle the incident.

The prison system's spokesman, Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, said he believed the similar disturbances would not occur at other institutions. "Let me emphasize that this was not a major event and not something we see spreading through the system," he said.

A prison guard union official was not so confident. "We're hoping these sort of incidents won't spread to other prisons," said Joseph Cook, director of field services for the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which represents employees throughout the state's correctional system.

The Brockbridge inmates refused to return to their dormitory areas shortly after midnight, demanding ice to help cool them in the scorching temperatures. Assistant Warden William Filbert came to the prison and spoke with the inmates, and the issue was resolved with arrangements for the ice, according to Sergeant Shipley.

Meanwhile, state correctional officials were conducting interviews yesterday to try to determine the cause of the riot in Hagerstown, which left 14 guards and 44 inmates injured. Officials were also trying to determine the extent of the damage to the prison, which MCI spokeswoman Nancy Rouse called "extensive."

Mr. Cook, whose union represents about 700 employees at the three state prisons in Hagerstown, said he was told by members that the damage "is the worst they have ever seen from any problem at the facility."

Raymond E. Lushbaugh, trustee for Teamsters Local 103, which represents about one-third of the officers at the Hagerstown prisons, said the damage was like "someone came in your house and broke everything. I mean everything -- every switch, every light fixture, every door."

The incident started in the dining hall about 11:30 a.m. Saturday when several inmates began fighting.

"Our indication at this point is that the fight was staged, but our investigation is continuing," Sergeant Shipley said. "All appearances are that it was the intent of the inmates to draw correctional officers into the area."

Other inmates -- about 350 were in the dining hall at the time -- joined in the fray. The guards were overpowered and inmates took their keys and began releasing about 650 other inmates from their cells, Sergeant Shipley said.

About 1,600 inmates are housed at MCI, which was built to accommodate about 1,000 prisoners.

Those guards in the dining hall made it to safety and a tactical unit of guards responded, shooting tear gas into the dining hall. The special unit, along with about 80 more officers, stormed the cafeteria and stopped the uprising, but not before inmates smashed furniture, set offices on fire and ripped phone and plumbing fixtures from the walls.

Two of the six inmates admitted to the Washington County Hospital with injuries from the riot have been released. Robert Jamison, 25, was released Monday and Sterling Gutreck, 22, was discharged yesterday and returned to the prison after being treated for gunshot wounds, said John Costopoulos, hospital spokesman.

Four inmates remain hospitalized, the most serious being Vincent Whitaker, 19. Also suffering from gunshot wounds, he was in serious condition in the intensive-care unit of the hospital.

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