Power outage sparks anger Outage sparks detention center uprising in the city.

January 09, 1992|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,Evening Sun Staff

Life at the Baltimore City Detention Center was normal overnight after guards quelled a disturbance by inmates following a power outage.

Following last evening's incident, the entire center was put in a lock-down that was expected to be lifted today.

Leonard A. Sipes, spokesman for the state's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said a few small trash fires were set and windows were broken by inmates during the first several minutes that power was out yesterday in an annex building that houses about 400 prisoners. Power went out at 5 p.m. and was restored about 8 p.m., he said.

The fires caused minor damage and were quickly extinguished, Sipes said.

Also, no one was injured and no attempts to escape were made during the incident, he said.

Five inmates who appeared to be leading the disturbance were placed in a segregated unit and were expected to face a disciplinary hearing, Sipes said.

Extra correctional officers were pressed into service to keep order among some inmates who tried to take advantage of the situation, he said.

At one time, 75 correctional officers, including several from the adjoining State Penitentiary, and State Police troopers were within the confines of the center to maintain order.

Some inmates balked at having to move out of their cells and into other buildings, Sipes said.

"We had plenty of personnel to handle the moving of several hundred inmates," he said.

Sipes said each floor of the annex building houses 100 inmates. The transfer was completed one floor at a time under strict control until all four floors were empty.

A transformer in the annex building broke down at 5 p.m., causing the building to lose all electrical power, he said.

Within minutes, several correctional officers were on the scene and maintaining order among the inmates, some of whom loudly complained and began to act up.

As extra officers arrived from other parts of the Detention Center and the State Penitentiary as the transferring of the inmates floor-by-floor began, some inmates started small fires among trash, broke windows, upset furniture and card tables, and voiced their general disagreement at being moved, Sipes said.

In the main courtyard and just inside one of the other buildings, a few inmates began a disturbance that was put down without injury by the officers, some of them in riot gear.

Extra manpower was placed in the center's guard towers as a precaution.

At least one trash fire was started in the center's main building into which several of the inmates were being moved.

At one point, three state troopers and a State Police K-9 unit were dispatched to the center.

Sipes said Detention Center and penitentiary officers maintained order while Baltimore Gas & Electric work crews repaired the malfunctioning transformer.

The cause of the outage was not immediately known, but was not caused by any inmate tampering with equipment, Sipes said.

By 8 p.m., according to Sipes, power was restored to the annex building and the inmates were returned to their original cells without further incident.

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