Two inmates stabbed in fight at Jessup prison

Incident at annex comes days after escape try

homemade knives found

May 05, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

While a prison security audit was under way, two inmates were stabbed yesterday during a fight at the House of Correction Annex in Jessup, authorities reported.

One inmate -- a 39-year-old serving a life sentence for rape -- was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was listed in stable condition, said Dave Towers, a spokesman for the state Division of Corrections.

The other -- a 25-year-old serving life for first-degree murder -- was treated at the prison's medical unit, Towers said.

Three homemade knives were recovered from the weight room where the stabbing occurred about 8: 40 a.m. in an apparent fight among the inmates, Towers said.

He would not confirm reports from several correctional officers that a security post about 20 feet from the weight room had been eliminated in January.

"We don't discuss internal posts for security reasons," Towers said.

But officers -- who are not allowed to talk to reporters without permission -- called The Sun to complain that safety for inmates, guards and the public has been jeopardized by recent staff reductions at the prison, which houses 1,200 inmates, including some of Maryland's most dangerous criminals.

Last week, five inmates were caught in an escape attempt at the annex -- and found to be carrying enough rope and other gear to get past its perimeter fence and razor wire.

The inmates -- robbers and murderers -- included Harold Benjamin Dean -- the only inmate to escape from both Maryland's "Supermax" prison and the state penitentiary.

Four of the inmates were transferred to Supermax -- the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore. But Dean remained at the annex yesterday, in a segregated lockup, officials said.

After the attempted escape and yesterday's stabbing, officials said the incidents were handled "appropriately."

Correctional officers called an alert and immediately broke up the fight, Towers said.

A correctional officer prevented the April 26 escape by calling for help as soon as several of the inmates broke through a hole they had cut in a recreation yard fence, officials said.

Towers said the security audit being done by the National Institute of Corrections, an agency of the Justice Department, had been arranged before the escape attempt.

A Department of Corrections investigative unit, which has its own policing powers to file both criminal and administrative charges -- is reviewing both incidents, officials said.

Inmate fights are common, Towers said. In 1997, a prisoner was killed in the annex's weight room.

Until charges are filed in the assault, Towers refused to identify the wounded inmates.

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