Four more disciplined in breakout

Jessup guard fired, officer demoted, 2 are reprimanded

`Serious security violations'

Latest actions end internal review, prison officials say

June 12, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Facing a potentially contentious legislative hearing, prison officials announced disciplinary action yesterday against four more corrections officers whose negligence contributed to the recent escape of two inmates from a Jessup prison.

The firing of another guard, the demotion of a captain to lieutenant and written reprimands of a major and another corrections officer complete the internal disciplinary review at the Maryland Correctional Institution, officials said.

That brought to nine the number of officers disciplined or transferred as a result of the May 18 escape. Previously, officials said they were transferring Warden Sewall B. Smith, firing a guard and suspending three corrections officers without pay for 15 days.

"These were serious security violations. All these people were involved in some kind of way with security glitches, not following policy or procedures," prisons spokesman Dave Towers said of the latest disciplinary moves. He declined to elaborate on the identity of the officers or their mistakes.

The latest actions come as legislators seek explanations. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled Tuesday in Annapolis.

Del. Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat who oversees the prison budget for the House Appropriations Committee, said he thinks significant changes have been made but that he is waiting to hear from officials.

"The point of the hearing is to ascertain whether there is real reform going on or they're just rearranging the deck chairs," Franchot said.

Towers, referring to the Annapolis hearing, said, "We're going to lay down what occurred and what the resolution is."

Gregory L. Lawrence, a convicted murderer, and Byron L. Smoot, an armed robber, had histories of escape before last month. Lawrence tried to break out of the Patuxent Institution in 1991; Smoot fled a pre-release program in 1993 and was captured three days later.

Elizabeth L. Feil, a psychologist who had been fired from the Patuxent Institution and who visited Smoot 58 times at the Jessup prison, has been accused of helping Smoot and Lawrence after their escape. She has been charged with harboring escapees, being an accessory and obstructing justice.

The escapees were caught two days later and are being held in the Supermax prison in Baltimore.

In a letter to The Sun, Lawrence described the breakout: "Escaping was a great adventure fighting ones way through the thick woods while bleeding profusely, with a partner whose leg is broke and bleeding just as bad, lungs pounding, heart racing, mind clicking on all valves to make the getaway clean. It is the total representation of what America is built on: determination. I cannot help but feel victorious."

Prison officials have acknowledged that several security lapses contributed to the escape, including officers' ignoring a motion detector and allowing Feil to visit the prison despite a regulation that bars fired employees from seeing inmates. Also, prison officials did not learn of the escape until a woman reported that her son had seen two figures scale the fence about 8: 30 p.m.

Besides those internal security breaches, prison officials said, four of six alarms intended to alert neighboring residents to escapes did not sound and a phone hot line malfunctioned.

In a related matter yesterday, attorneys for Life Care Health Services, which employed Feil, sought a court order preventing her and Glenn Bosshard, the man she acknowledged as her husband, from disclosing names and other private information about its clients. The suit, which comes amid investigations into Feil's actions, was filed yesterday morning in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Life Care attorneys also asked the court to seal the lawsuit.

Judge Joseph P. Manck did not rule on the request. He asked company attorneys George Petros and Nicholas J. Kallis to provide more information.

Sun staff writers Andrea F. Siegel and Devon Spurgeon contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 6/12/99

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