Instead of relying on their trusty nightsticks to subdue unruly inmates, some correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center are now going to resort to the devastating power of cayenne pepper.
In an effort to reduce the number of injuries that occur when inmates and correctional officers mix it up, Commissioner of Detention and Pretrial Services LaMont W. Flanagan has ordered supervisory personnel at the jail to carry pepper mace.
"We believe this new product will make it safer for the staff and the inmates because it will curtail the need for excessive force by the staff," the commissioner said yesterday. "Pepper mace can be used to disable unruly inmates and reduce the need for excessive force."
Since the state took over the Baltimore City Jail in July, officers have put into effect a series of measures to improve security at the institution, which houses approximately 2,800 people awaiting trial.
Some of the security measures include periodic shakedowns of the inmates and their cells, installation of razor wire and issuing semiautomatic pistols to correctional officers.
To demonstrate the effect of the mace -- finely ground cayenne pepper released in an aerosol mist -- the commissioner sprayed some in a room where he was conducting a news conference yesterday.
Jail personnel, reporters and cameramen beat a hasty retreat as their eyes started to water and they began sneezing convulsively.
Unlike chemical mace, which sometimes is ineffective and leads to permanent injuries, Mr. Flanagan said the pepper mace is almost always effective, clears up after about 30 minutes and leaves no permanent aftereffects.