A headline in yesterday's editions stated incorrectly that the lockdown begun in early May at the Maryland House of Corrections Annex will end Monday. In fact, officials on Monday will begin a gradual easing of the lockdown.
The Sun regrets the error.
Ending the longest confinement of inmates since a 1991 riot at the state's Hagerstown prison, Maryland corrections officials plan to begin lifting the almost monthlong lockdown at the Maryland House of Correction Annex next week.
FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION
Starting at 8 a.m. Monday, 10 inmates at a time will be allowed one-hour visits to the Jessup prison's four day rooms -- 1,000-square-foot rooms where they can watch television, play board games and make telephone calls. The rooms are next to prison control centers, where officers can keep close watch on the inmates, officials said.
The inmates also will be allowed to leave their cells for showers. They will not be allowed any outdoor activities. Inmates have not been allowed to leave their cells for activities inside or outside the buildings since a May 7 melee sent four correctional officers to the hospital.
"The institution remains calm," Leonard A. Sipes, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said yesterday. "So we're increasing out-of-cell activity."
Even so, state lawmakers, who this summer are studying public safety issues and preparing recommendations for the 1998 General Assembly session, are calling for improvements and reforms that would help prevent such future incidents. They say prison crowding is to blame for many of the problems.
"I have serious reservations as to whether we have adequate prison facilities for our current population and for our future," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat. "I think it's a dangerous situation for our state employees."
Three correctional officers were seriously injured May 7 after inmates repeatedly stabbed them during the two-hour disturbance at the maximum-security prison. One officer, Christopher Hill, 34, was stabbed 17 times in the head, face, back and shoulders. He has been released from the hospital and is in rehabilitation, his father, Earleston Hill, said last week.
The May 7 incident was the second disturbance that week. The TC day before, 12 officers and seven inmates were injured after a fight in the mess hall.
More charges expected
A state police officer who is investigating the May 7 incident said yesterday that investigators expect to charge several inmates in the next few weeks for "inciting a riot," destruction of property and reckless endangerment. Seven inmates who are serving life sentences were charged last week with attempted murder and assault in the attack on the officers.
"It was only one building and one tier, so we are fortunate as far as the riot situation is concerned," said Sgt. George Jacobs, the state police investigator. "But there was a lot of damage done."
Correctional officials have denied requests by The Sun to tour the annex, saying that they are assessing security concerns. They announced the lifting of the lockdown after repeated inquiries by a Sun reporter about the problems at the prison.
The lockdown has been the longest since inmates at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown were kept in their cells more than two months. That was the result of a riot involving more than 1,000 inmates who rampaged through the facility with homemade weapons.
Safety issues addressed
Union representatives blamed the recent melee on a lack of staffing, crowding at the prison and a need for better training and equipment. They have been negotiating almost daily with Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services, and his staff about improving safety at the prison for inmates and officers.
"Up until this point, Secretary Robinson and his people have been really good about listening to the officers' concerns," said Geo T. Johnson, special representative for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "But it took almost death to get this moving."
To some officers, the process is moving too slowly.
"Everybody's claiming that everything is a money issue, so they can't do anything immediately," said Sgt. Bernard Ralph, who works at the annex and sits on the AFSCME board.
Johnson said the institution is growing more crowded. The 1,800 inmates -- 1,100 of whom are serving life sentences -- are twice as many as the facility was supposed to house.
After the riot, 115 inmates were transferred to the state's "Supermax" facility in Baltimore, but some of them will be sent back to the annex after police complete their investigation, police investigators said.
The union supports the gradual lifting of the lockdown, Johnson said, but with the expectation that improvements will be made at the prison.
A labor and management task force is expected to make recommendations to Robinson by June 11, Sipes said.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are working on their plans to bolster prison safety.
"I have been from the beginning and I continue to be in total support of building the second half of [the Western Correctional Institution in Allegany County], which I believe is absolutely necessary for public safety in our state," Taylor said. "I even recently had an official suggest that the second half of WCI could be a maximum-security facility."
Del. Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat who is chairman of the House subcommittee on public safety and corrections, said he supports construction of an additional maximum-security facility.
"We've got plenty of prisons for everybody else," Franchot said. "The issue is, can we get a facility that will take 500 to 600 maximum-security prisoners from the annex?"
Pub Date: 6/04/97