Guards fear inmates have their numbers

February 17, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A union official representing correctional officers at the Maryland Penitentiary says inmates have obtained a list containing officers' home addresses -- a claim that has triggered tension in the maximum-security prison.

"It's of grave concern to the officers. Some of the inmates have told them, 'I know where you live and I know your phone number,' " said Larry M. Thomas, president of Teamster Local No. 103. "We're talking about a major breach of security."

The list -- containing addresses and phone numbers of about 100 officers -- supposedly slipped into the hands of inmates about two weeks ago, Mr. Thomas said.

But correctional officials contend that they have done an exhaustive search of the institution and haven't found any evidence that inmates have gotten hold of the list.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said investigators have searched cells and questioned "regular sources of information within the institution" to no avail.

"Rumors have been circulating with increasing vigor, but we've got no evidence of any such list being circulated," Mr. Sipes said. "It's a maximum-security prison and there have been repeated cell searches. If [the list] was there, we would have uncovered proof of it by now."

But Mr. Thomas said cell searches are not a foolproof way of seizing contraband in a prison. "Everyone knows there are drugs in prisons. How come the cell searches don't find the drugs?" he said.

He also said obtaining confidential information about officers is not difficult because some inmates are allowed to do clerical jobs in the institution, a practice he criticized as a security breach.

Mr. Thomas said that about 10 days ago, an inmate found a copy of the list inside a garbage bag after a supervisor ordered the inmate to take the bag to a trash area. An officer spotted him with the list and took it away, Mr. Thomas said.

"That incident shows how lax the security is. The inmates have been given too much freedom in the institution and they can get their hands on anything," Mr. Thomas said.

Mr. Sipes said he had no information about the alleged incident with the garbage bag. He said inmates are sometimes given "clerical duties" inside the penitentiary but said they would not have access to classified information.

Mr. Sipes also criticized the union for not providing investigators with a copy of the list that was supposedly taken by inmates.

The Maryland Penitentiary, on East Madison Street, houses approximately 955 inmates, most of whom are serving long sentences for violent crimes. The institution employs more than 300 correctional officers.

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