In response to a hostage incident at a Baltimore prison last month, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said today he is seeking legislation that would impose tough penalties on inmates who take prison or jail employees hostage.
Schaefer said he will ask the General Assembly to pass a bill imposing sentences of up to 30 years. The sentence would be served concurrently with a hostage-taker's current sentence and could not be suspended.
At a news conference at the Baltimore City Detention Center, the governor said he will submit the "emergency" bill next month when the legislature convenes for a special congressional redistricting session.
"I hope it will act as a deterrent," Schaefer said.
If passed, the new law would not affect the inmates who took two correctional officers hostage at the Maryland Penitentiary in mid-July.
Inmates who take guards hostage now can be charged with the common law crime of false imprisonment. However, that law does not specify a penalty, and a judge may exercise discretion in sentencing, said Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services.
The officers taken hostage last month have not fully recovered from the stressful ordeal and have not returned to work, Robinson said. One officer was held captive about 14 hours and the other was held nearly 24 hours. Neither was physically hurt.
Their request for transfers to jobs in other institutions will be honored, correctional officials said.
The investigation into the incident is continuing, and no charges have been filed, Robinson said.
House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, said he will speak to other legislative leaders to see if they want to take up the hostage bill next month or in the regular legislative session in January.