Prison locked down since Monday Muslim inmates' religious rites are at issue.

January 30, 1992|By John Rivera *

The state penitentiary in Baltimore has been locked down since Monday partly because inmates were dissatisfied with the coordinator of Muslim religious services and became unruly, according to a spokesman for the Division of Correction.

About 150 prisoners on Sunday morning and 50 on Monday refused to leave their cells for breakfast, Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, the spokesman, said yesterday.

During a recreation period Monday afternoon, two telephones were ripped from a wall. The warden then decided to lock down the Maryland Penitentiary and initiate a shakedown -- an TTC intensive search -- of the facility.

Some Muslim inmates have expressed discontent with the person in charge of Muslim services, Sergeant Shipley said. "They're just not happy with his services, and I believe there are three or four groups of Muslims there all wanting to be satisfied by this one Muslim coordinator."

Some prisoners also objected that movies were shown in small rooms.

The coordinator holds services for the Moorish Science sect and several Sunni Muslim sects. The Nation of Islam is forming a group in the prison that is seeking official recognition, Sergeant Shipley said.

"This Muslim coordinator is having to deal with all of those and while they are all part of the Muslim faith, they all have varying requirements and procedures, and it's difficult to satisfy each one of these individuals," Sergeant Shipley said.

Inmates are also reportedly unhappy that they are not able to attend weekly movies in the prison's auditorium, which holds 350 people, Sergeant Shipley said. The state fire marshal recently inspected the auditorium and ruled that it was unsafe to occupy that many inmates.

The warden instead bought video cassette recorders for each cell block and the movies, which are screened on Saturdays, are now held in the day room of each housing unit.

The inmates are confined to their cells and all prison programs have been canceled. No visits are being allowed. Nothing significant has been found in the shakedown.

The lockdown will continue until the search of the facility is complete and the warden is satisfied that the mood among inmates has calmed, Sergeant Shipley said.

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