Why have there been two major prison disturbances in Maryland in the past two months? First, 1,000 inmates took over portions of the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution at Hagerstown in May. Now a hostage crisis at the maximum-security Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore has created new concerns about prison safety.
Both disturbances occurred in antiquated buildings. The MCIH complex is half a century old. The penitentiary dates back to the early 19th century when Thomas Jefferson was president; C Dormitory, site of the hostage-taking, is the oldest building in Maryland's prison system.
Living conditions in these complexes, especially at the penitentiary, are difficult. There is no air conditioning. Some buildings are crumbling. Nearly 1,600 inmates were crammed into MCIH at the time of the May rampage -- 600 over capacity; 260 inmates were jammed into the L-shaped C Dorm when prisoners seized control of the area -- three times the number of two years ago when the state's corrections secretary called the building "unfit."