Schaefer would add jail time for taking prison guard hostage

August 23, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith

Any Maryland prisoners found guilty of taking prison guards hostages could find up to 30 additional years tacked on their sentences, under emergency legislation proposed yesterday by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

At the Baltimore City Detention Center, with Corrections Secretary Bishop L. Robinson at his side, Mr. Schaefer said he will ask the General Assembly to pass his bill when it meets Sept. 25 to redraw congressional election districts.

Maryland law already provides penalties for hostage-taking, but the governor said he wants new, harsher sanctions specifically aimed at the taking of prison guards. Last month, two guards were seized by inmates during an uprising at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore.

"If a hostage is taken," the governor said, "severe consequences will come." He said he believes the legislation he is proposing is too important to wait until the General Assembly convenes in January for its 1992 session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said that he had not been briefed in advance but that the Assembly would consider the initiative. As with other legislation, Mr. Miller said, a hearing would have to be scheduled on the bill.

Mr. Schaefer made his announcement during a news conference at the jail, which the state took over July 1.

Mr. Robinson said the 30-year sentence for taking a guard hostage could not be suspended, under the governor's proposal.

"This administration," Mr. Robinson said, "will not tolerate such dastardly acts." While hostage-taking often is attributed to prisoner grievances, he said these complaints are almost always "a subterfuge to effect an escape."

Mr. Robinson said he believes the additional sentence would be an effective deterrent even if a prisoner already faces a life term. Any disruption or escape attempt usually requires assistance, he said, and prisoners with lesser terms might not want to make their prison stay longer.

Mr. Schaefer said the state has no alternative but to spend millions for new prisons. However, he said society must eventually come to terms with the causes of crime and spend more money on education and health care.

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