In response to a hostage-taking incident at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore last month, Gov. William Donald
Schaefer is seeking legislation that would impose tough penalties on inmates who take correctional employees hostage.
The proposed bill calls for a sentence of up to 30 years that would be served after a hostage-taker's existing sentence and could not be suspended. The measure is aimed at inmates in prisons and jails across Maryland.
At a news conference at the Baltimore City Detention Center yesterday, the governor said he will submit the emergency bill next month when the General Assembly convenes for a special congressional redistricting session.
"I hope it will act as a deterrent," Schaefer said.
If enacted, the new law would not affect the inmates who took two officers hostage at the Maryland Penitentiary last month after a botched escape attempt.
Inmates who take guards hostage now can be charged with the common-law crime of false imprisonment, said Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services. That law does not specify a penalty, and a judge may exercise discretion in sentencing, he said.
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 hurt.
Their request for transfers to jobs in other institutions will be honored, correctional officials said.
The investigation of 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 would like to vote on the hostage-taking bill next month or during their regular session next year.